The Shaw Trust reported in 2010 that only 2 in 10 employers have a reactive or proactive mental health policy to support staff with mental ill health. What role does leadership have in addressing this challenging issue?
Employee mental well-being should be an integral part of the boardroom agenda, on a par with physical health. Leaders should insist that regular monitoring of progress or issues is reported to the board. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has found that 70% of employee mental health problems are either directly caused by work or by a combination of work and home. In light of this, there simply is no excuse for this not be a mainstream issue for leaders to address. By proactively managing mental well-being in the workplace, leaders are not only dealing with their legal and ethical responsibilities, they are also looking after their bottom line as well. Absenteeism and presenteeism are responsible for losing British organisations billions of pounds, so how can this subject be ignored.
All employers should include safeguarding mental well-being into their standard operations, particularly when employees and/or organisations are embarking on change processes, which can be and are very challenging times for everyone. Training from the leadership down in proactively managing mental well-being, including offering additional support to staff or simply leading by example, is essential. Safety net support such as coaching and occupational health needs to be incorporated into health and well-being policies.
Leaders should be ensuring that management have a huge positive impact on mental health. Good line managers are essential in spotting early signs of distress and initiating early intervention, whereas poor line managers may make the situation worse or even be the cause of mental health problems through their approach, management style of behaviour.
Leaders should be insisting that comprehensive and, more importantly, mandatory mental health training for line managers is introduced and embedded into the culture and development plans for their employees. This training and change in culture will ensure that the organisation develops employee resilience and emotional well-being.
Steve Scott is co-founder of CSP Coaching LLP firstname.lastname@example.org