Yesterday, I was interviewed on BBC World News about a new study on workplace mental health by the consultancy firm Deloitte
, which found that poor mental health now costs UK businesses a staggering £43 billion a year.
As well as adding up the cost of the nation’s mental health-related sick days, the figure includes the costs of presenteeism - when people turn up to work despite being unwell and are unproductive as a result – as well as the impact of ‘leaveism’. This newer phenomenon seems to especially affect younger workers, who are using their holiday allowance to take time off for their mental health.
The statistics are alarming, but there is also some good news. Deloitte’s study found that there have been positive changes in workplace culture over the last couple of years, including a growing willingness to talk about our mental health at work and increased mental health support for staff, particularly in larger organisations.
It’s inspiring to see business leaders like Antonio Horta-Osorio from Lloyds sharing his own experience of workplace stress, and businesses like the construction firm Seddon talking about why it trained workers as Mental Health First Aiders
, so that they can spot the early warning signs of mental ill health in their colleagues and break the stigma around mental health.
Deloitte’s report found that money spent on workplace mental health interventions is a sound investment – for every £1 spent, employers save £5 on average. Of course, this is not just about economics - mental ill health has an enormous, unquantifiable human cost. But it busts the myth that investing in your people’s mental health will have an adverse impact on your bottom line and helps to make the case for why businesses should create mentally healthy workplaces on economic, as well as moral grounds.
Over the last decade, we’ve worked with over 20,000 organisations to embed Mental Health First Aid alongside other interventions, as part of a ‘whole organisation’ approach. Our experience shows us that empowering people to be their ‘whole self’ at work, making it ok to talk about mental health and giving them the tools to support themselves and each other, is key to breaking the stigma that undoubtedly still exists.
Workplace mental health is now firmly on the agenda, thanks to the team at Deloitte for producing this excellent report. Great progress is being made, but there is much still to do to create a society where we can all talk openly about our mental health and seek help when we need it.