I’m chuffed to be part of the official #CIPD15 blogsquad again this year. This year’s opening keynote is by Professor Gary Cooper. Today, Professor Cooper is going to address CIPD conference delegates on the issue of mental capital and wellbeing at work; what are the causes and consequences of poor mental health and stress in the workplace and what re the bold HR solutions that will enhance mental capital.
Here is what we already know: mental health absence is a big problem in the workplace. 1 in 4 of us at some point in our lives will suffer from a mental health condition. Absence surveys, including the CIPD’s own annual version, consistently shows mental health to be one of the top two drivers of absence from work, once you strip out the usual suspects like coughs, colds and stomach upsets.
At the same time, we are increasingly seeing wellbeing making its way onto the corporate agenda. According to the aforementioned CIPD absence survey, 1 in 5 organisations now have a wellbeing programme within their people strategy. We have increasing interest too in topics like mindfulness and resilience and their application in the workplace. So what does this all mean for HR?
Here is what Professor Cooper has to say:
Why is this issue so important?
We need an environment in which people want to go to work. That they aren’t hoping for leaves on the line when they wake up in the morning
Mental health absence is a bottom line issue. Presenteeism is a bigger issue to the UK economy than absenteeism. Research shows that only one third of employees are healthy AND happy.
Mental health costs the UK £70bn per annum. Only 2 in 5 employees working at peak performance. 15.2m sick days per annum due to stress, anxiety and depression. A cost to employers of mental health absence of £1035 per employee per annum.
Fact. If you consistently work long hours it will make you ill. In the uk we work astronomical hours. Flexible working can help – for all, not just parents. But women still apply much more than men, and men get turned down more than women. We need to fix this. People are consistently working significantly longer than their contracted hours. Plenty also don’t take their full holiday entitlement. People who work more tha 45 hours a week see their children less than one hour a day. Long hours also don’t make us productive.
Thousands of studies identify what makes you stressed. Structure, climate, too much work, too little work, job insecurity, poor physical working conditions, time pressures and deadlines, too many decisions…… Relationships – with boss, colleagues, subordinates. Conflict
Emails are a huge problem. People check them on the evenings and the weekends. We have overload. We talk about work life integration – but that often means work encroaching on personal time.
At the heart is management. Do our managers and leaders have the right skills and training to mange people effectively? We select too often on technical skills still. We need more socially skilled managers. Relationships at work are fundmental, especially in a knowledge economy.
This is the key. What can we do about this stuff?
Primary – deal with the stressors. EAPs. They work. But they don’t solve the problem or change the culture.
Secondary. Helping people to cope. Resilience training. Evidence also shows this works.
Tertiary. Picking people back up – wellbeing interventions do work and can save you money.
My take? Of course managers are the key. Of course we need more socially skilled leaders who understand this stuff. We need interventions like EAPs and resilience training. But if we know this and it is common sense why do we still have such an issue? There is still a stigma around mental health. There is still reluctance to talk about this stuff, go on resilience training, ring an EAP and ask for help.
Yes, managers are the key… But HR turns it in the lock. We have to educate them, help them have the conversation, ensure that the dialogue of wellbeing is heard in our organisations. Create the culture in everything that we do.
As this is a live blog, please excuse any typos!