The Covid-19 pandemic has posed a monumental threat to mental health, bringing in its wake new-onset mental health issues, bolstered by Covid-related related anxiety, post-traumatic stress, fear and loneliness.  

2022 has also seen growing unease about the state of the country’s economy, rising energy bills and months of political instability – further aggravating the severity of existing mental health challenges. It is no surprise that approximately one in four people in the UK will experience a mental illness this year.  

Whether we return to the office or continue do flexible work, employers need to support employees’ mental health. But what are the benefits of doing so, and what options are available to employers?  

Impact of mental health at work 

Working conditions can have a deep impact on mental health, which in turn impacts how well an employee performs in their role.  

A mental health charity has found that one in 6.8 people experience mental issues in the workplace, with women in full-time employment being twice as likely to suffer from a “common mental health problem” than men.  

It is also important to recognise that some groups experience higher prevalence of mental health problems, including Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups, carers, victims of domestic violence, people with learning difficulties, LGBTIQ+ people, people with physical health conditions, and people with substance misuse.  

In this context, mental health issues can be attributed to 12.7 per cent of all sickness absence days in the country, with mixed anxiety and depression causing one fifth of days lost from work.  

By promoting wellbeing at work and supporting workplace intervention, employers can reduce absenteeism and encourage productivity – and save UK businesses up to £8 billion per year.  

Investing in personalised information and advice, seminars, workshops and web-based materials will cost a company an estimated £80 per year, per employee.  

For a company of 500 employees, an initial investment of £40,000 will result in a net return of £347,722 in savings, the Mental Health Foundation said.  

Available options 

Businesses are encouraged to treat mental health in a similar way to physical health. By ensuring their health and safety risk assessments consider mental health and risks, employers can manage and mitigate the risks of harm in the workplace.  

There are many options available for employers wishing to proactively support and maintain employees’ mental health.  

First, they should ensure that their HR policies and practices recognise the needs of employees with mental health illnesses.  

Secondly, employers should consider covering Mental Health First Aid training in addition to First Aid at Work training, and invest in internal qualified Mental Health First Aiders.  

Their role is to raise awareness of mental illnesses, spot the signs and symptoms of mental health issues, encourage early intervention to aid recovery by providing non-judgemental support and reassurance, and reduce stigma around mental health issues.  

It is business leaders’ responsibility to have a clearly communicated mental health wellbeing policy: indeed, St John ambulance found that 80 per cent of employees weren’t sure if their company had one such policy.  

While there is no legislation in place in the UK today with regards to guidance for employers on mental health first aid at work, having sufficient mental health provision will benefit employers and employees in the short, medium and long term.  

If you are looking for advice on how to best support your teams, speak to one of our experts today.