It’s Mental Health Awareness Week, which this year is highlighting stress as a major cause of mental illness. Aon’s Benefits and Trend Survey[i] released in January revealed a sharp increase in the number of employers reporting employee stress and mental health-related illnesses – up from 55% last year to 68% in 2018. Other research from King’s College London[ii] found that lonely millennials are more likely to experience mental health problems, such as depression or anxiety, than the general public.
So how can employers tackle the rise in workplace mental health issues?
Absence management expert Adrian Lewis, Director at Activ People HR believes that employers could make far better use of technology and data to spot the signs of mental health issues and initiate conversations about mental health issues.
According to Adrian;
“Mental Health Awareness week is important week as it raises more awareness of an issues that is becoming an epidemic in the UK, especially in the younger people. Mental health is very much in the news agenda, and is even making soap storylines, such as Aidan Connor’s suicide in last week’s Coronation Street, which was caused by his mental illness. Employers have a responsibility to their workforce and can use technology to proactively spot mental health issues, such as stress and anxiety and support staff before they start taking long periods of absence.”
Stress and stress-inducing situations are the main causes of short-term absence (up to 26 weeks) according to industry body Group Risk Development (GRiD)[iii]. A Government report found that poor mental health costs UK employers up to £42 billion a year[iv]. It also highlighted that around 15% of people at work have symptoms of an existing mental health condition.
“There is still a great deal of stigma associated with mental illness and both employers and employees can find it a difficult thing to discuss. Using technology such as absence management software not only track absence rates accurately but provides data that can show trends to employers and which can help managers initiate conversations to find out if employees are suffering from stress, anxiety or depression and let them know they won’t be judged.”