Mental Health Awareness Week 2019

22 May, 2019


As part of Mental Health Awareness Week Pick Everard held a series of activities designed to end the stigmatisation around discussing mental health. Jennifer Cotterill, Learning and Development Advisor looks into how we can break the taboo of mental health in the workplace and what businesses can do to support good mental health and wellbeing.

Breaking the Taboo of Mental Health in the Workplace

As many of you will be aware, Mental Health Awareness Week (13th-17th May 2019) took place earlier this month across the UK. At Pick Everard, we have been holding a series of events designed to end the stigmatisation around discussing mental health.

These events have taken the form of:

  • wellbeing breakfasts
  • TED talks
  • mental health awareness training
  • stress management training
  • tightly contested lunchtime quiz

Despite a high level of engagement with the activities, my takeaway observation has been how difficult people still find it talk about mental health due to the cultural taboos surrounding the topic. In addition, from a business perspective, it is also difficult to put in place measures which truly support people, not only when they struggle with their mental health but also to support them to stay healthy and maintain good mental health and wellbeing.

Why should businesses care about mental health?

Research into this topic has mainly centred on absenteeism and the affects this has on organisations. However, a new field of research has started examining the impact of presenteeism on both the individual as well as a company’s outcomes – such as productivity.

Presenteeism is defined as staff coming into work even when they are ill. This often results in lower productivity and prolonged episodes of illness. This is a particular problem for businesses, as lower productivity results in slower progress against key business outcomes, resulting in a loss of profitability and growth.

The recent Stevenson and Farmer Review (2017) into mental health at work reported that there is an annual cost to employers of between £33 billion and £42 billion, with over half that cost coming from presenteeism and additional costs coming from sickness absence and staff turnover. Furthermore, analysis from Deloitte demonstrated that cost per employee of mental health in the workplace ranged from £497-£2,564 depending on the industry and the sector. Within the professional services sector, the cost of mental health problems has been estimated at sitting between £1,473- £1,998 per employee.

The significant cost issue to businesses and, along with the employee wellbeing aspect of mental health, is a key reason why we are so invested in the issue at Pick Everard.

Investing in Mental Health Programmes

One of our values is ‘to promote health, safety and well-being as an essential part of what we do’, as such we have invested in supporting the mental health of our employees.

Throughout Mental Health Awareness Week we have been encouraging our employees across our 13 offices with wellbeing activities to get people talking about mental health.

We have also invested in Mental Health First Aiders, who are volunteer employees trained to hold first contact conversations, with an aim to have at least one in every office or region. We provide on-going training, support and supervision to our Mental Health First Aiders so that they can support our employees across the business to be happy, healthy and well.

Beyond this, we provide access to an employee assistance programme with over the phone or face-to-face counselling and we ensure we have one-to-ones with our people to keep in touch with their needs when the demands of the day job shift and change.

Our commitment to positive mental health doesn’t stop there and, in 2019/2020, we will be developing more programmes to make sure that we give our employees the best chance of maintaining good mental health whilst supporting those who struggle with mental health issues. We’ll also seek to understand the role of diversity and inclusion has on mental health and what new solutions we can identify for our growing workforce.

Not only does it make business sense, but it’s just the right thing to do. Through opening up these conversations and implementing support mechanisms within the business, we hope to change the conversation around mental health and remove the taboo for the benefit our employees, their friends and their families.

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