This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Find out more here


To discuss how you and your organisation can get more involved with The Work Foundation, please contact us.

Call 020 7976 3575 or email

The Work Foundation

Spotlight on mental health in the workplace helpful but…

Authors: The Work Foundation Robin McGee

15 July 2010

An article in the 8 July issue of The Economist highlights the increased focus employers are paying to the psychological wellbeing of workers. One of the reasons for this increased attention may be that the WHO predicts that depression will be the biggest health burden globally by the year 2030. The organisations that are working to address mental health conditions are doing so for good reasons, early intervention can reduce the impact of mental health conditions on individuals, as well as employers.

As the article rightly points out mental health conditions are economically important – costing British employers nearly £26 billion each year – and sickness presence comprises the majority of the costs. Our recent report, Sick and at work, highlights how workers with reduced psychological wellbeing are more likely to report sickness presence (when workers come to work even though they feel unwell enough to justify taking time off). The research identified three factors associated with sickness presence: 1. personal financial difficulties, 2. work-related stress, and 3. perceived workplace pressure.

Although the article mentions how organisations can contribute to stress-levels, it seems to confuse mental health problems with ‘a bad mood’. Just like some level of stress can be good, there is a line that can be crossed and it can become detrimental to someone’s health. Additionally, employers and workplaces can only do so much to address mental health problems. Rather than the employer taking sole responsibility for managing mental health, it should be coordinated with the appropriate health professionals in the healthcare system. More importantly, the employer should focus on providing good working conditions that not only support individuals with mental health conditions, but also reduce the impact that work contributes to the development or progression. In fact, the workplace can play a supportive role in facilitating recovery and reducing stigma and discrimination.

One of the beneficial outcomes of increasing the focus on psychological wellbeing may be that it increases the opportunity to talk about mental health. The stigma associated with mental health may be part of the reason the article’s author is critical about the increased attention to mental health. Why is it that someone’s performance assessment would be impacted by their mental health status? With appropriate treatment, good working conditions and line management, the impact of mental health conditions may be minimal. Furthermore, there are many high powered, effective individuals who have a mental health condition. The best way to combat the stigma associated with mental health conditions is to continue the conversation about it.

Comments in Chronological Order (Total 2 Comments)

Nick Yates

18 Aug 2010 4:00PM

It should come as no surprise that more and more organisations are taking notice of mental wellbeing at work. With 1 in 4 people experiencing some form of mental ill health in their lifetime, it is common sense that workplaces will be affected by the mental health of their staff and that employers should take proactive steps to address it.

As the Work Foundation points out, The Economist seems to be confused about mental health. They talk about positive mental attitude as the outcome of mentally healthy workplaces and isolate mental health as an issue for the “psychologically frail”.

In reality, mental health has more in common with physical health than The Economist suggests. Good mental health is something you do, not something you have. It’s about valuing, accepting and caring about yourself and others around you. Good mental wellbeing at work is about a two way relationship between employer and employee. A long way from the top down authoritarian approach The Economist suggests.

In practice spotting a mental healthy person isn’t easy. Yet what The Economist paints as mental wellbeing at work is clearly unhealthy. They suggest that companies are pushing their employees for perfection and setting unreasonable standards for personal happiness.

Instead, Mind’s ‘Taking care of business’ campaign has been promoting a “three step” [] that employers should follow to achieve workplace mental wellbeing. Firstly, raise employees’ awareness of mental health, inform individuals of the steps they can take and demonstrate that mental health is an organisational priority. Secondly, look at what is causing mental ill health in the workplace through tools such as a stress audit. Thirdly, develop mechanisms to support those already experiencing mental distress.

The ‘Taking care of business’ campaign is working with employers and employees to spread the message that open and supportive work environments benefit everyone.

We all have mental health and each of us is likely to feel healthier at some times than others. Mind hopes to show employers that taking steps to improve mental wellbeing is good for their staff and their bottom line. It’s great to see The Economist highlighting this issue and Mind would be keen to work with them to build their understanding of this issue.

coupon codes 365

08 Sep 2014 9:59AM

I was very impressed by this post, this site has always been pleasant news Thank you very much for such an interesting post, and I meet them more often then I visited this site