Why HR shouldn’t be the last resort for tackling mental health in the workplace

Published: 24th September 2020

Over the last few years there have been more and more campaigns that have aimed to tackle the stigma of mental health. In workplaces across the globe, numerous training courses and programmes have been devised to bring awareness to leaders and employees about mental health in the workplace but there’s always more that can be done, and many organisations are still sadly lacking in this area.

Organisations raising awareness of mental health issues, creating policies to help support those who may be struggling with poor mental health and ensuring employees know how to get help and who to approach when they need to do so can make all the difference. By doing this and putting mental health at the forefront of their culture, organisations are demonstrating that they take mental health issues seriously and that they care about the health and wellbeing of their employees.

Making mental health part of the narrative of an organisation means not just relying on employees to approach and chat to HR when they feel they’re overwhelmed or struggling, as they more than likely won’t do this. Just 14% of respondents in a recent survey by ADP said they’d feel comfortable telling HR about a mental health problem or concern. This demonstrates that workers are extremely unlikely to approach HR if they feel they have an issue and shows that relying on individuals to approach HR isn’t the best way to deal with problems of this nature.

The Mental Health Foundation have estimated that around 70 million workdays are lost each and every year due to mental health problems. This costs employers more than £2.4 billion each year and is clearly something that needs to be tackled in order to maximise profits and care for organisations’ most important assets – their people.

Stress is one of the biggest issues for mental health and workers are feeling increasingly stressed in today’s world. A massive 68% of workers said that they feel stressed at work at least once a week. Stress in employees both in and outside of the workplace is thought to be higher now than ever before. This is due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on our working lives and our lives in general.

One of the biggest and best ways to raise awareness of the importance of good mental health is by simply talking about it and highlighting it. Organisations who make mental health a regular topic without any stigma or judgement attached to it will find their employees are more likely to be open and honest if they are having problems and will feel as though their organisation truly is committed to their wellbeing.

HR teams can play a major role in helping to break down these barriers and make it easier for individuals to approach them whenever necessary. Making employees feel as though their mental health is important and that they will be given time off if required and whatever support they need is key to getting issues out into the open and getting help before problems fester and become larger and more serious.

By showing a strong and serious commitment to good mental health, organisations show they’re dedicated to their people and to creating a supportive and positive culture. Organisations who do this will find it easier to attract and retain top quality talent who will be able to help them drive their business towards continued growth and success.