The Importance of Mentally Wellbeing at Work

Mental wellbeing at work is a vast topic. There is a wealth of information, and for any organisation just getting to grips with mental health support in the workplace, it can be difficult to know where to start. We are going to look at this important topic in six parts across this year. The Construction Health and Safety Manual has a whole section dedicated to mental wellbeing, along with 11 other health related topics.

Concerns over the rising levels of mental ill-health in the construction industry are well-publicised. Figures suggest construction workers are unlikely to seek help, with only 0.7% of workers reporting stress-related illness (compared to 1.4% for all industries). However, the highest levels of suicide in the UK are in construction, with male site workers three times more likely to commit suicide that the average UK man. ONS figures show more than 454 construction workers took their own lives in 2016. In fact, this is many more than the approximate 30 fatal accidents on construction sites every year.  

There were also around 16,000 new cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety in construction in 2016-2019: a quarter of all ill-health in the sector.

The macho culture in construction, combined with job insecurity, heavy workloads, long hours, high-risk tasks, lack of routine and separation from family are some of the key factors leading to mental ill-health.

Mental health problems can stop people from performing at their best. Ensuring mental health and wellbeing is a priority can have wide-ranging, positive effects for an organisation. These can include the following:

  • More efficient, productive and innovative staff
  • Increased profits and reduced costs
  • Better morale and performance
  • Reduction in sickness absence, presenteeism and staff turnover

Organisations perform better when staff are healthy, motivated and focused. The relationship between wellbeing, motivation and performance is known as ‘employee engagement’.

The bottom line is that open and supportive workplaces benefit employees and employers. Simple steps including prevention and early identification of problems can save money.

When employees feel their work is meaningful, when they feel valued and supported. They tend to have higher levels of wellbeing, show more committment and perform better.

Employee engagement and good mental health go hand-in-hand. Research shows that when staff wellbeing is not supported, employee engagement lessens.

According to Mind, 1 in 6 British workers experience conditions such as depression, anxiety and unmanageable stress every year. The majority of employers underestimate this statistic. It has a big impact on businesses, costing them up to £26 billion each year.

A study by the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health looks to identify the correlation between mental ill health in the workplace and the financial effects. Staff turnover, lower productivity and lost working days due to mental health problems can come at a high price.

When employees leave their jobs due to poor mental health, organisations incur high costs in recruiting, selecting and training new staff members. There is also a risk of legal action under health and safety legislation, which can damage an organisation’s reputation. Staff turnover can cost around £2.4 billion a year.

‘Presenteeism’ is the loss in productivity that occurs when employees come to work but function at less than full capacity because of ill health. Workers may come to work despite being unwell because they fear that sharing their mental health problem will cause prejudice or discrimination. Research suggests presenteeism accounts for 1.5 times as much working time lost as absenteeism. This appears to be more common amongst higher-paid staff and therefore costs more to employers.

70 million working days are lost each year due to stress and other mental health problems.

There is also a strong link between mental ill-health and physical ill health. This includes conditions such as heart disease, stroke, cancer diabetes and asthma.

Neglecting mental health at work is simply too high a price to ignore.

Compiled from an article authored by Gemma Esprey, the Callsafe Services Mental Health First Aider, that first appeared in the January 2020 edition of Callsafe Today.