Identifying mental health challenges in the workplace

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Health Assured team

19 March 2019

According to research from NHS Digital, nearly one in three sick notes issued by general practitioners in the UK are for mental health reasons.

These issues are now the most common reason for absence from work, surpassing musculoskeletal disorders.


The report shows a staggering 14% increase in fit notes written for anxiety and stress related conditions during the period of research. And 21.5% of mental and behavioural episodes are for longer than 12 weeks. It’s clear—mental health issues are affecting productivity and absence keenly.


Mental health-related absenteeism is costing UK businesses 15.4 million days a year—over £2.4 billion. You need to know how to identify any challenges in your workplace that could be bringing your people down. Here are a few suggestions:



Mental health is still a taboo subject in many workplaces. Employees can find it difficult to admit to a co-worker or a manager that they’re finding it difficult to cope. The fear of being unfairly treated, or perceived as weak, can drive those suffering with anxiety or depression further into their problems.


Employers can carry out assessments of stress risk—like this— that can help ascertain levels of stress put on staff, and how to tackle them. Training managers to spot issues and carefully reach out to those experiencing problems—letting them know that it’s perfectly fine to seek help—can reduce stigma.



Stress. We’ve all felt it—even the word can bring some of us out in a cold sweat. Just over three-fifths of organisations are taking steps to identify and combat stress. Workload is the most common cause, with relationships, organisational change and work-life balance snapping at the heels of many employees.


Staff surveys, risk assessments/stress audits and questionnaires on work-life balance are good ways to get some data on the levels of stress in your office. Providing stress awareness and management training, or courses on building personal resilience, will aid greatly in reducing stress and tension.


Proactive policies

Research shows that action is often taken after a significant mental health issue is presented. This is exactly the wrong way to go about this—your wellbeing policy should be proactive, and should aim to tackle problems before they can take root.


Encouraging employees to speak up by providing surveys, creating a volunteer mental health champion or even sharing your own stories as a senior in the organisation can contribute to better workplace wellbeing—and potentially encourage people to talk about issues before they escalate into something more serious.


Tackling mental health issues

Make sure you’re seen to be supportive. Provide literature on wellbeing best practice, train your managers to spot problems and create a mental health policy that stops anyone from falling through the cracks.


It might sound like a lot of work—and it can be—but it’s worth it. Once you see the improvements and successes—and communicate those to the people who need that reassurance—you’ll reduce your mental health absences and see a much happier workforce.



If you would like to find out more information on any of the topics mentioned in this article, please contact Health Assured on:

0844 892 2493

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