Mental health and money major workplace issues
AFEW years ago, mental health was not seen as an important issue within many workplaces across the UK.
Fortunately, this issue has changed and it is now seen as not only a key concern personally for a growing number of employees, but as a major influencer on productivity within the UK economy – it is estimated that mental health issues result in 91 million working days lost in the UK every year, which is equivalent to nearly £100bn annually.
And this issue is more widespread than many previously thought. For example, a report published by the medical technology company Mynerva suggested that around 7.5 million workers in the UK are suffering from some sort of mental health issue, and worse still, 44% have not informed their employer as they feel it may damage their job prospects.
Another study – the Stress Epidemic – found that over two-thirds of UK workers experienced high to moderate stress levels with 42% regularly losing sleep because of workplace stress.
Another key issue which leads to mental health problems is that of financial insecurity, as a recent mental health at work survey, commissioned by Business in the Community in partnership with the global consultancy Mercer, has shown.
It found that not only are employees struggling to deal with the demands and insecurities of the workplace, but that financial insecurity is contributing to the national burden of poor mental health.
In fact, this survey of more than 4,000 people across the UK found that 82% of respondents were affected by the cost of living, 67% by job security and 65% by the state of the economy.
More worryingly, these financial concerns have resulted in threefifths of respondents suffering a range of mental health symptoms such as loss of sleep, fatigue, stress and a lack of concentration.
In examining the state of mental health of Welsh workers, the study threw up a number of interesting findings. For example, 27% of Welsh respondents were more likely to report that their mental health negatively affects their financial situation, compared to 21% in the rest of the UK, with 30% of Welsh respondents saying that they are struggling to make ends meet, higher than the 24% across the UK.
In addition, respondents in Wales were twice as likely to talk to their manager about general mental health issues rather than financial issues, although it is of concern that 42% of line managers in Wales (as compared to the UK average of 29%) reported that their own lack of training is a barrier to providing support on mental wellbeing for staff. Indeed, two-thirds had received no training at all in this area.
So what can employers do to deal with this growing problem? The survey suggested that financial wellbeing should be integrated into organisational health and wellbeing policies.
In addition, there should be more explicit advice on what is available to employees (including pay advances, hardship loans, time off to sort personal finances, travel loans, money counselling or other support services) to deal with financial issues.
In addition, wellbeing training of line managers should include financial awareness, especially in terms of information about what solutions are available as part of the overall employee benefits package.
Employers could also offer a range of other interventions including financial education to improve employee financial understanding; offering salary-deducted lower-cost loans to help employees; introducing salary-deducted savings in order to create a financial buffer; and signposting to organisations such as the Money Advice Service that offer free help and guidance
Therefore, this timely study by Business in the Community shows that not only is there a clear twoway relationship between financial wellbeing and mental health, but there is more that employers can do to support their employees on these issues through fair pay, flexible working, training and progression, appropriate job design and a decent work-life balance.
Indeed, this could be one of the major changes that employers could make immediately to their human resources practice that would, over the next few years, make a major step change in the productivity of their organisation and, as a result, the productivity of the UK economy as a whole.
> Financial insecurity is a source of stress and anxiety to many employees