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Employers must treat mental health like physical health and safety

BITC report finds current approach, through yoga and mindfulness, too reactive.

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Employers are being too reactive in their approach to mental health of their workforce and instead must treat this as seriously as physical health and safety, a report from Business in the Community (BITC) has found.

 

The report, entitled What if your job was good for you, has drawn together numerous studies into mental health and featured input from several employee benefits and wellbeing leaders.

 

The BITC’s findings conclude that employers have to achieve a parity between the management of physical health and safety, and that of mental health and safety.

 

Enabling employees to ‘create their own jobs’ alongside managers and to talk about their concerns in an open and accountable culture is part of this.

 

“For too long, organisations have focused on reactive measures to attempt to tackle employee health and wellbeing focusing on ‘low hanging fruit’ such as awareness training, yoga or free fruit bowls,” the report read.

 

“However, a large body of research indicates that levels of mental ill-health at work are influenced by more fundamental aspects of job design.”

 

The report included evidence from Bupa Health UK’s 2020 mental health study that found only 56% of employees were comfortable talking about mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression.

 

The pandemic has exacerbated the situation for some employees, with the CIPD finding that working hours have increased by up to 12.5 hours per week over the past year.

 

BITC is advocating a ‘test and learn’ approach for employers to follow and calling for companies to do more about mental health concerns before they become critical.

 

This can include widely communicating employee wellbeing as a priority concern and encouraging open conversations about this.

 

The report concluded: “The pandemic has afforded business leaders access into the lives of their employees; increasing awareness of the variety of pressures, responsibilities, environments and conditions in which they work, and building empathy.

 

“There is an opportunity to harness this momentum, furthering this individual focused approach by empowering employees to co-create better jobs, supported by their managers, and aligned with organisational practices and policies.”

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