Today is World Mental Health Day. Today might not be a good day for you, or for a colleague.
Mental health problems are all too common in the workplace and it is the leading cause of sickness absence.
In the UK alone, a staggering 70 million work days are lost each year due to mental health problems, costing employers approximately £2.4 billion per year. Think of the global impact of this.
Despite one in four adults expected to suffer an episode of depression or similar in any given year, mental health is rarely an open workplace discussion. This can add to increased stress, and all too often, discrimination – perceived or actual.
We have found ourselves living in a culture of “success at all costs.” It sometimes seems that there is no place for average – after all, that’s what most of us are!
From starting school to leaving university the pressure is on to prepare for the workplace, a workplace that is ever changing and unlikely to mirror the expectations that were common on your first day at school!
That said, the future of work will hopefully factor in greater work-life balance – and greater acceptance of the fact that we are people not machines. The trend for empowered scheduling, flexible working and contingent working are becoming more common.
At NGA HR, for example, we have many parents working around the needs of their children and children working around the needs of their aging parents. It is important to make work work well for people and if you do, people will work well for you, because they can!
Employers and employees need to be willing to talk about stress, anxiety and depression openly.
This tendency to silence is stifling workforce performance and success. The cost of benefits such as “mental health days” and employee counselling services are far less to a business than a workforce fearing for their job because they’re struggling.
A workplace that is compassionate – and I mean this in no gushy way – is a workplace that breeds loyalty and respect. One bad day can easily be managed. The fear of “being caught out” could eventually lead to many more than one bad day and a serious impact on the business.
No one chooses to have mental health problems, may these be stress, anxiety, depression or other conditions, diagnosed or otherwise, but everyone should have the choice to be open and honest about it if they choose to be, and to seek the treatment they require with no fear of reprisal.
Attitudes are slowly changing. There are now high profile campaigns for Alzheimer’s and teenage mental health.
You might be fine, but statistics suggest that not everyone you work with is. Depression, stress or anxiety is not a bad day at the office. It is a dark cloud that can make every day seem like it will never end.