A report by Aon Employee Benefits has found that 68 per cent of organisations have experienced instances of stress and mental illness at work in the last year, a rise of 13 per cent from the previous year. According to the Health and Safety Executive, subsequent absences caused by work-related stress cost UK organisations 12.5 million working days in 2017.
It would appear that organisations are becoming increasingly aware of the issue and are making active attempts to address the problem. The Aon study revealed the number of organisations taking steps to tackle workplace mental health and stress has increased from 36 per cent to 42 per cent in the same period. Organisations are more frequently offering staff access to Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and virtual GP services, whilst training for managers on how to notice and deal with instances of mental illness in the workplace is becoming more widespread.
Adult workers are currently entitled to one uninterrupted rest break of 20 minutes during their working day should they work more than 6 hours a day. They must also receive a minimum rest break between working shifts under the Working Time Regulations. However, a recent study from Public Health England has stressed workers in the UK are not getting enough rest, with their mental health and productivity being impaired as a result. The study encourages organisations to help their staff with these issues, particularly as it is in their best interest to ensure a healthy and successful workforce.
One lesser used option which organisations may wish to consider is the implementation of mindfulness initiatives in the workplace. ‘Mindfulness’ is a technique where individuals proactively manage their mental health by focusing their mind of what is taking place in the present moment. To take advantage of this technique, individuals undertake short periods of meditation designed to relax the individual, whilst focusing the brain and increasing attentiveness to what is happening to their mind, their body or their surroundings at this time. Many global employers have already implemented this tactic as a way to increase cognitive function and engagement amongst staff, with morning sessions being particularly popular amongst attendees at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos.
Organisations may wish to encourage mindfulness within their business by introducing workplace programmes, signposting employees towards this practice or by providing guidance and resources to inform staff of this initiative. To encourage employees to take time during the working time to manage, and care for, their mental health, organisations can provide a break out area away from the normal workspace to allow employees to relax during their break period; helping to reset the mind and minimise stress.