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

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