By Brendan Street, Clinical Lead, Nuffield Health
We talk a lot about the cost of mental health in the workplace. But what benefits do employees living with emotional wellbeing issues bring to the economy and to your business?
When we address mental health concerns in the workplace, it’s often with the well-meaning aim of reducing the burdens it can place on people’s lives and your bottom line. From absenteeism to low productivity, the focus is usually on cost and unfortunately, this view can perpetuate the stigma these employees face day to day.
22% of people with a mental health condition feel they’ve been directly discriminated against and 20% of line managers agree that a person with conditions like depression and anxiety are less likely to progress in the organisation according to the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) report 2016.
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 they’re a unique asset to UK businesses.
Employees with mental health conditions or experience:
Contribute more to the economy than they take
The MHF report in 2016 found people with mental health conditions contributed an estimated £226 billion gross value to the UK economy in the previous year, over 12% of UK GDP. That’s around nine times the estimated cost of mental health problems to the economy
Are uniquely qualified to recognise and help other affected employees
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 about their work. These assumptions can lead to discrimination and serve to worsen their condition. 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. At Nuffield Health, we’ve developed our network of Mental Health Champions who, in combination with line managers, are empowered to raise understanding around mental wellbeing and to help others access the right support at the right time.
Bring diversity to your workforce
It’s established that a diverse workforce makes a healthy workplace. It brings different ideas and viewpoints to the table and ensures your teams have the breadth of skills and experience necessary to understand your customer’s needs and deliver on them. All of us will be affected by mental health conditions to some level in our lives. Those who have already experienced it bring that knowledge to the table.
Place a high value on work
We know that many mental health conditions are exacerbated by feelings commonly associated with being out of work, like hopelessness and lack of self-worth. So, it’s no surprise the MHF report found line 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.