Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Employers getting down with mental health

Helping employers to understand issues around mental health is fast becoming a key component of approaches to productivity, staff happiness, improved services and profits.

It is employers, managers and directors who are taking the lead on many of the new initiatives around mental health.

Supported by business ‘dragon’ Duncan Bannatyne, Mind’s ‘Taking care of Business’ campaign highlights the initiatives being taken by employers around issues of mental health at work.

The Mind campaign underlines the message that the promotion of good mental health helps employers ‘increase productivity, improve staff performance and save thousands of pounds’.

Mind also hosts a series of follow-up programmes designed to actively encourage good mental health in the workplace.

Some of the companies who have signed up to support the Mind campaign include EDF energy, BT, Hewitt Consultancy, AXA and police and security services. James Kenrick at Hewitt Associates helped set up an Employee Assistance programme allowing staff access to counselling services where appropriate.

Hewitt also initiated a staff health audit which identified stress, anxiety and depression as ‘real issues within the organisation’. James Kenrick states that:

‘after the health audit we sourced a stress vocational rehabilitation service, which has a vocational focus and is staffed by psychologists. Employees who have been absent for 10 days or more are referred for an initial assessment, and recommended the most appropriate treatment plan. We have found that this service, along with early intervention, has greatly reduced the days lost through stress-related absence and stopped stress-related disability altogether’.

Proactive management of mental health in the workplace has allowed Hewitt Associates to save ‘nearly £400’ per employee. More importantly, as Kenrick states:

‘it's the intangible elements that are most rewarding. The feedback from staff who have been helped to recover from difficult circumstances has been exceptional’.

EDF Energy is a major electricity provider. A workplace audit showed that the company was losing around £1.4m in productivity each year as a result of mental ill health among its employees. As part of an Employee Support Programme the company offered psychological support (cognitive behavioural therapy) to employees and trained over 1,000 managers to recognise psychological ill health among staff and to minimise its effects. This resulted in an improvement in productivity which saved the organisation approximately £228,000 per year. Job satisfaction also rose from 36 to 68%
(Business in the Community, 2009).

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