Often, conversations surrounding mental health issues in the workplace – if had at all – are approached with the well-meaning aim of reducing the burden on employees and its impact on businesses’ bottom lines in the form of high absenteeism and low productivity.
According to The Mental Health Foundation,22 per cent of people with a mental health condition feel they’ve been directly discriminated against. Approaching the subject from a negative standpoint can perpetuate the stigma employees with mental health problems face, when in fact, these employees can add real value to an organisation.
It’s time to quash the view that people living with, or who have a history of, mental health are a drain on society. Here are four reasons why they are a unique asset to UK businesses.
Firstly, they are worth billions to the UK economy. A joint report by Unum UK, The Mental Health Foundation and Oxford Economics -“Added value: mental health as a workplace asset” – found working adults with mental health problems (MHPs) contributed an estimated £226bn to UK GDP in 2015.That’s around nine times the estimated cost of mental health problemsto the economy.
Employers who are inflexible and unwilling to make reasonable adjustments for employees living with MHPs will miss out on a wide array of workplace talent and the associated financial benefits.
Secondly, they can bring the insight to recognise and help others. Mental health does cost individuals and organisations dearly when it goes unaddressed. Sometimes, employees feeling a strain on their emotional wellbeing can be incorrectly characterised as lazy or apathetic. These assumptions can lead to discrimination and serve to worsen their condition.
According to Mind, 56 per cent of employerswould like to do more to improve staff wellbeing but they feel they lack the right training. Employees, and especially line managers, with mental health experience, have the insight to help others better manage the symptoms of their condition and help to disrupt harmful interpretations of their behaviour by others.
Thirdly, they increase diversity in the workplace. One in four peoplewill be affected by mental health at some point in their lives.A diverse workforce makes a healthy workplace. Bringing different ideas and viewpoints to the table ensures your teams have the breadth of skills and experience necessary to understand your customer’s needs and deliver on them. Those who have already experienced it bring that knowledge to the table.
Finally work is a high priority for MHPs. Feelings commonly associated with being unemployed, like hopelessness, financial insecurity and a lack of self-worth can exacerbate many MHPs.
The MHF report found managers with personal mental health experience were significantly more likely to place a high value on work and their role within it. In fact, they see work as an important part of protecting their mental health. And we know that employees that value their work are great assets to any business.