How often do you talk to your employees about their mental health? The likelihood is, probably not very! There is still a strong taboo around the subject and many of us are more comfortable burying our heads in the sand than starting an honest conversation.
But the truth is at least 50% of the most common mental health conditions (stress, anxiety and depression) are thought to be caused by factors in the workplace, so mental health in the workplace is a very real concern for all.
The statistics about stress in the workplace are pretty staggering. For instance, did you know that the average amount of time taken off during a period of stress related leave is 23 days? Stress accounts for 43% of all days taken off from work (over 12 million a year), costing around £7bn. But it’s not just the time taken off work that’s the problem – ‘presenteeism’ or being at work whilst unwell with stress, is estimated to cost the economy over £15bn a year in lost productivity.
Stress is a physical reaction to an external stimulus – a flight or fight reaction that we have all experienced at times and one which is useful for getting us out of harms way. Stress becomes a problem when our body has a stress reaction to things that aren’t harmful.
Our stress adaption process should stop us having a stress reaction to things we have learnt are actually ok which allows us to manage our daily lives more or less smoothly. However, at times this process can go wrong and become overloaded, meaning their stress reaction seems permanently switch on. As a result the individual can feel extremely tense, overloaded and on the edge of a breakdown. You can read more about the stress process here.
Workplace stress isn’t simply due to heavy workloads, levels of responsibility or tight deadlines as you might expect, although they are some of the most common reasons. Other causes of stress include:
The signs that your staff member has stress aren’t always that clear and of course will be differ between individuals. People with stress often behave differently to their ‘normal’ but the following signs are commonly experienced:
If you have a member of staff who you think is suffering with stress, Clinical Partners can help. Clinical Partners Occupational Health team is a private, nationwide innovative OH service that can help deliver, fast, flexible, cost effective OH services to your company. Read more about the services we offer here.
 Mitchie, S. (2002) Causes and Management of Stress At Work in Occup Environ Med 2002; 59 67-72