The CIPD and UK mental health charity Mind issued a new resource this week, the People Managers’ Guide to Mental Health, to help managers better identify and address mental health issues in the workplace, People Management reported on Wednesday:
Among the publication’s suggestions were using regular catch-ups and supervised meetings to monitor staff wellbeing and being alert to potential workplace triggers for distress, such as long hours or unmanageable workloads. The report also recommended businesses work to address the stigma still attached to mental health and encourage people to talk openly about their needs. The publication stressed that managers must be prepared to broach important dialogues and offer support. …
Following a disclosure of mental ill-health at work, managers should be prepared to make reasonable adjustments – such as relaxing requirements to work set hours in favour of flexible working, giving employees time off for appointments related to their mental health, such as therapy or counselling, and increasing one-to-one supervisions with staff.
The guide is written for readers in the UK and refers to some laws, regulations, and conventions specific to that country, but the bulk of its advice is applicable to managers anywhere. Research conducted last year by the UK health provider Bupa found that more than one in three line managers would have difficulty identifying mental health problems among their staff, while 30 per cent would not know what to do if a member of their team had a mental health problem.
New government data from the UK indicates that employees there are taking sick days off work at a historically low rate, Workplace Insight’s Neil Franklin reports:
A new report from the Office for National Statistics suggests that the number of sickness days taken by UK workers has almost halved over the past two decades to reach a record low. It dropped from an average of 7.2 days in 1993 to 4.1 days in 2017, and had been steadily falling since 1999. The total days lost for all workers last year was 131.2 million, down from 137.3 million in 2016 and 178.3 million in 1993. Since the recession, sickness absence rates have declined by 0.5 percentage points to 1.9 per cent last year. The reasons are not explored in the report but one possible explanation would be the growing number of people prepared to work when they should really take time off.
A report published in May by the CIPD and SimplyHealth on the state of health and wellbeing in the UK workplace found that presenteeism (workers showing up to work even when sick) was a growing problem, with 86 percent of employers saying they had seen staff come into work while sick over the previous year. That marked a significant increase from 72 percent in 2016 and just 26 percent in 2010, yet the same survey found that only a quarter of organizations that had seen signs of presenteeism had taken steps to mitigate it. The CIPD/SimplyHealth report also found that many employees were working while they were supposed to be on vacation, while other recent studies have suggested that many full-time UK employees aren’t taking the full paid leave benefit to which they are entitled.
Presenteeism could well be a factor in the trend identified by the ONS, Rachel Suff, senior employment relations adviser at the CIPD, told Ashleigh Wight at Personnel Today.
The UK Working Lives report, billed by the CIPD as its first comprehensive survey of the British workforce based on its new Job Quality Index, was released on Wednesday. Surveying around 6,000 workers throughout the country, the report aims to produce a clearer and more objective picture of the quality of the jobs available to employees in the UK, “using seven critical dimensions which employees, employers and policy makers can measure and focus on to raise job quality and improve working lives”:
The health and value of the modern economy has long been gauged purely on quantitative measures such as gross domestic product, growth rates and productivity. A concerted focus on advancing the qualitative aspects of jobs and working lives will prove to be the next step forward.
Overall, the picture the report paints of the British workplace is positive for a majority of employees: Most said they were satisfied with their jobs, while 80 percent said they had good relationship with their managers and 91 percent said they had good relationships with their colleagues. Nearly 60 percent said they would choose to work even if they didn’t have to. Nonetheless, substantial numbers of respondents identified overwork, stress, and mental health concerns related to their jobs, pointing to shortcomings in the impact work is having on their quality of life.
Three in ten workers told the CIPD they suffered to some extent from “unmanageable” workloads, while 6 percent said they were regularly swamped with “far too much” work each day. While 30 percent reported feeling “full of energy” at work most of the time, 22 percent said they often felt “under excessive pressure,” another 22 percent said they felt “exhausted,” and 11 percent reported feeling “miserable.” And although 44 percent said work had a positive impact on their mental health overall, a full 25 percent said the opposite. In terms of their physical health, only 33 percent said they thought work had a positive impact versus 27 percent who said its effect was negative.
The Utah-based company CHG Healthcare Services, which provides medical care in rural areas of the western US, regularly ranks on Fortune magazine’s annual list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For. Deseret News reporter Jason Lee highlights the innovative way the company helps its employees manage their mental health, which factors into its high levels of employee satisfaction:
For the past six years, the health care staffing company has offered its employees and family members access to a free on-site health clinic. Over time, the clinic’s providers learned that 3 out of 5 patients were visiting the clinic for issues related to mental health, so the company decided to add mental health counselors to its on-site facility, giving employees access to those services while in the office. …
[Vice president of talent management Nicole] Thurman said providing the mental health clinic is less about the money and more about taking a holistic approach to providing for the overall health and well-being of employees. … She noted the mental health programs are breaking even at an approximate monthly cost of about $8,500.
“We estimate the amount we are spending is what we are saving when people go to our onsite clinic instead of going somewhere else,” Thurman said. “The benefit to our people seems very positive and long-term impact will need to be assessed.”
The holistic approach to employee wellbeing CHG embraces is precisely the best practice our research at CEB, now Gartner, recommends. Our recent work on wellbeing finds that a holistic program covering employees’ physical, emotional, and financial wellbeing has a 33 percent greater impact on engagement than one that covers only physical wellbeing.
Psious, a virtual reality and augmented reality technology company, originally designed its products to help therapists combat anxiety disorders in patients via immersion therapy. For example, as Helen Lock of the Guardian reports, for patients with a crippling fear of insects, the therapist could expose them to their fears using VR without having to find a bunch of bugs in real life. The company has now expanded its offering to help businesses promote mental health. The vision is that instead of venting angrily around the water cooler or seething internally, there are always-on methods to support employees with depression or anger and provide an outlet to direct their feelings in a healthy way.
The technology can be used to manage a variety of maladies, including stress, ADHD, and fear of public speaking, according to the Psious website. But they aren’t the only ones: CleVR offers a range of VR systems that treat phobias through exposure therapy, while Guided Meditation VR can transport employees from their cubicle to a calm, quiet field, where they’ll be walked through breathing and meditation exercises. Some of these solutions are also suitable for treating PTSD, which can be helpful for veterans or victims of traumatic evens such as sexual assault.
Back in July, NewPathVR launched a portal called RE:NEW, which directs users to a catalogue of wellness applications. Charles Singletary at Upload highlights Google’s Happinss, the “rhythmic casual game” Thumper, and Fearless, another exposure therapy offering, among the different apps available.
Domestic violence in an employee’s home life is the sort of situation HR hasn’t traditionally had to deal with. Most companies—65 percent, according to SHRM—don’t have a formal workplace domestic violence prevention policy, but Fortune’s Ellen McGirt argues that this is a tremendous oversight:
The total costs to the US economy of intimate violence – including medical care, mental health services, and time away from work exceed $8 billion a year. The figure for lost productivity alone is some $727.8 million. That’s 8 million paid work days lost each year. …
Victims have a wide variety of practical needs. They may need time away from work for legal, financial or psychological counseling – which they may not be able to afford. They may need time for court dates, and for meetings with teachers or other caregivers. They may be injured or traumatized and need time to recover. They may be having trouble focusing at work, particularly on stretch assignments. And because domestic violence can be deeply humiliating, it may be difficult for them to tell people around them what they need. They may not even know themselves. And the perpetrators often harass them at work.
“If intimate partner violence is not currently part of your inclusion plans,” McGirt asserts, “it needs to be.”
Several new surveys from the UK illustrate the importance of managing against the pressure and stress employees experience at work. In one study, Marianne Calnan writes at People Management, 20 percent of employees said they had taken time off work to cope with excessive pressure:
A further 18 per cent of the 2,000 employees surveyed by the Chartered Accountants’ Benevolent Association (CABA) said they had cried at least once every fortnight because of their job. More than a third (34 per cent) said they didn’t like their job, citing problems such as not being paid enough (9 per cent) and a lack of development opportunities (8 per cent).
The research, released to mark Stress Awareness Day today (1 November), also found that 35 per cent of workers regularly considered leaving their job. The same proportion also said they often missed family occasions or personal engagements because of work commitments. …