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First of our related Events: Facing up to mental health in the workplace

Breakfast Seminar 17 November 2016

On Thursday morning last week, Niki and I hosted a breakfast seminar focussing on the subject of mental health in the workplace. We were very pleased that our attendees were from a broad range of companies, mostly from the design and construction sectors, along with representatives from HR and employee wellbeing.

Using reference material from the CIPD, HSE and various organisations such as MIND and Access to Work, we began by discussing some of the current statistics regarding the impact of mental health on the workplace:

  • 25% of the workforce are likely to be affected by mental health issues during their working life.
  • Stress is now the most common cause of long term sickness absence.
  • The cost of mental health problems at work has been estimated at £30 billion.
  • 91 million work days a year are lost to mental health problems.
  • Presenteeism from mental health issues alone costs the UK economy £15.1 billion a year.

I think you'll agree that some of these are quite astounding. It is increasingly clear that we need to find ways to address the subject and to invest in our staff to try and support them.

Given our work with creative companies, we discussed as well recent research in the fashion and music industries. Also, since a recent article in Dezeen magazine ranked architecture fifth in a list of jobs most linked to suicide, we asked the question as to what support is available to architects or others in the design industry?

We considered the prognosis that creative individuals may be particularly prone to experiencing mental health problems. This is on the basis that there may be a personal investment in creativity beyond that in other professions and an exposure of oneself and therefore perhaps an increased vulnerability. This, together with the need for a level of robustness to deal with today's increasingly commercial world, is something of a dichotomy.

We discussed ways of spotting potential mental health issues in our staff, how to address them and the kind of support that a workplace can provide.

What is clear is that as well as doing our best to support staff who suffer from mental health conditions, we should also create a working environment where such conditions are less likely to arise, where stress does not exacerbate those which already exist and where individuals are not afraid to discuss how the conditions affect them and seek help.

A lot falls upon the shoulders of managers and one of the keys is to do all we can to ensure effective communication with our teams. Empathetic relationships with those for whom we are responsible mean that we can spot the signs sooner and provide support before the situation becomes more serious. As one of our guests commented, 'it's best to try and prevent, rather than cure'.

Our session ended with a lively debate. We agreed that more sessions on this topic would be valuable to continue to raise its profile and work towards reducing the stigma it still holds. Only by working together to do this and pro-actively develop a framework to support those who suffer these conditions can we properly invest in our staff.

Keep your eyes peeled for our next event on this important topic!