Proactive Measures Required

Robert Half and the CMI address mental health in the workplace.

Proactive Measures Required

UK & Europe

This week is mental health awareness week and it is clear that employers need to start taking the initiative in terms of understanding how the issue impacts on their workers and how they can provide the support they need. 

“Employee wellbeing has risen up the business agenda in recent years,” notes Matt Weston, managing director, Robert Half UK. “Businesses have woken up to the fact that unhappy and stressed employees are perhaps the biggest factors behind high churn, low attendance and low productivity. According to the HSE, stress related absence is estimated to cost the UK economy £26 billion in 2017 alone.”

However, says Weston, many companies do not prioritise strategies to keep employees happy. While acknowledging that more are ramping up workplace initiatives, such as flexible working, these initiatives alone do alleviate stress or promote long-term happiness.

 Many of the factors behind workplace stress are intrinsic to the job, and therefore the foundations are fundamental to success,” says Weston. “Our report, 'The secrets of the happiest companies and employees' has found that employees who have a genuine interest in the job, the right skills and temperament so they can develop satisfying and fulfilling careers, are far more likely to be happy and less stressed. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to happiness, pride in the organisation (51 per cent), being treated with fairness and respect (51 per cent), and feeling appreciated (50 per cent), were the most common factors contributing to happiness at work.”

Weston advises businesses to nurture a culture of praise, recognition, rewards, and identify opportunities for the growth and personal development of their employees. “There are tangible benefits for the organisation as well, as happy and productive employees can have a direct impact on the bottom-line,” he concludes.

Meanwhile, Patrick Woodman, head of research at CMI, says: “Happy and healthy employees are the most effective employees, so every employer should take mental health seriously. That doesn’t just mean providing gym memberships, stress management classes or fresh fruit in the office, as good as those may be. Instead, they should start by looking at the quality of line management in the organisation, because that’s what has the biggest impact on most people’s daily working lives.”


CMI’s recommendations for improving the quality of working life include:

  1. Improve the ability to manage change – change is unsettling and can affect mental health, it’s also inevitable - 97 per cent of managers report some degree of organisational change in the past 12 months. Managers have to be transparent and supportive, and involve employees in shaping the changes that affect them. 
  2. Develop better line managers – bad management creates stress and can harm mental health. More open, empowering management styles are connected with lower levels of stress – as well as with higher job satisfaction and greater personal productivity. Employers have to do more to support managers’ professional development.
  3. Switch off – Avoiding digital presenteeism means giving colleagues the license to switch off. Colleagues can often be their own worst enemies, and while personal choice is key, options such as restricting remote access should be considered.
  4. Empower your people – The most powerful drivers of job satisfaction are a personal sense of achievement. Where innovative, entrepreneurial and empowering management styles are found, more than 84 per cent of managers are satisfied with their jobs.
  5. End the taboo about mental health – managers have to set a tone that enables colleagues to talk openly about mental health, to admit when things are tough, and need to be supportive when people experience mental health issues.




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