Government master plan for wellbeing: How start-ups can deal with mental health

A new independent report called Thriving at Work, sets out what business owners can do to better support employee wellbeing in the workplace

A new government report into wellbeing in the workplace is advising business owners on how best to deal with employee mental health.

Thriving at Work: The Stevenson / Farmer review of mental health and employers, has revealed that 300,000 UK workers with long-term mental health problems are forced to leave their jobs each year, with poor employee wellbeing costing the UK economy nearly £99bn each year.

The report says that while business owners are keen to intervene when they recognise one of their employees is struggling mentally, the percieved stigma of disclosing a mental health condition is still a significant barrier to workers looking for support.

Just 11% of employees surveyed said they discussed a recent mental health problem with their line manager, with over half saying they wouldn’t feel comfortable doing so.

While a strong number of employers want to help, a majority have not actually adopted any workplace policies whatsoever to support workers – with just 39% of businesses having some kind of system in place to deal with such issues.

The evidence strongly suggests failure to have such an official support system is affecting employees’ confidence in coming forward and disclosing problems they may have – with eight in 10 employers reporting no cases of staff ever disclosing a mental health condition to them.

The government-backed review points out that a lack of quality mental health training for line managers is a potential cause of employee shyness, with just 24% of managers admitting they had received some form of training on mental health at work.

At the core of the report, Stevenson and Farmer recommended six mental health core standards that entrepreneurs, start-ups, business owners and employers should follow:

Six ways you can help improve employee mental health in the workplace

  1. Produce, implement and communicate a mental health at work plan that promotes good mental health of all employees and outlines the support available for those who may need it.
  2. Develop mental health awareness among employees by making information, tools and support accessible.
  3. Encourage open conversations about mental health and the support available when employees are struggling, during the recruitment process and at regular intervals throughout employment, offer appropriate workplace adjustments to employees who require them.
  4. Provide employees with good working conditions and ensure they have a healthy work life balance and opportunities for development.
  5. Promote effective people management to ensure all employees have a regular conversation about their health and well-being with their line manager, supervisor or organisational leader and train and support line managers and supervisors in effective management practices.
  6. Routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing by understanding available data, talking to employees, and understanding risk factors.

Emma Mamo, head of workplace wellbeing at Mind, said:

“Mental health is still the elephant in the room in most workplaces – employees are reluctant to raise the subject for fear of discrimination, while managers ofen shy away from the subject for fear of making matters worse or provoking legal consequences.

“This culture of silence means that opportunities to support someone in the workplace are being missed, resulting in staf being of sick or falling out of the workplace altogether.”

Louise Aston, wellbeing director at Business in the Community, said:

“The need to address employee mental health is increasingly recognised in boardrooms, but there is more to do to ensure widespread and consistent reporting.

“We know that investors are demanding a clearer and more consistent way to understand how organisations are managing their most important asset – people.”