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Mental health in the workplace

The Government's Department of Health advises that one in four of us will experience mental ill health at some point in our lives. It is therefore important that employers and their staff take steps to promote positive mental health and support those experiencing mental ill health.

What is mental health?

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.

Mental ill health can range from feeling 'a bit down' to common disorders such as anxiety and depression to more severe and far less common conditions such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

Most people's mental health will not just be continuously good. Usually it will rise and fall depending on pressures and/or experiences in their life. A person may therefore feel in good mental health generally but also experience stress or anxiety from time to time.

Why is understanding and addressing mental health important?

People that feel good about themselves often work productively, interact well with colleagues and make a valuable contribution to the workplace.

A recent Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development study highlighted the impact that mental ill health can have on organisations. The study found that:

  • 37% of sufferers are more likely to get into conflict with colleagues
  • 57% find it harder to juggle multiple tasks
  • 80% find it difficult to concentrate
  • 62% take longer to do tasks
  • 50% are potentially less patient with customers/clients.

The study also found that, for the first time, stress is the major cause of long-term absence in manual and non-manual workers.

Guidance that Acas offers on mental health

To help employers and their managers in this area Acas currently have guidance for employers and managers on:

  • Promoting positive mental health in the workplace: outlining a step by step approach to improve the mental health of staff and provide support processes for staff that experience mental ill health
  • Managing staff experiencing mental ill health: providing guidance for a manager who thinks a team may be experiencing mental ill health. It includes information on spotting the signs that a team member may be experiencing mental ill health, tips on how to approach talking to them about their mental health and how to support them in their recovery
  • Dealing with stress in the workplace: explains the causes of work-related stress and how to approach reducing this in your workplace. It also provides guidance on spotting a team member that may be experiencing stress, how to approach talking to them and support them
  • Managing anxiety in the workplace: outlines what anxiety is and what signs may indicate a team member is experiencing anxiety.

Featured research papers on mental health

Where to go for further support if you are experiencing mental ill health

If you are experiencing mental ill health there is help and support for you.

  • Access to work that can provide advice and an assessment of workplace needs if you have a disability or a long-term health condition, and are already in work or about to start. Grants may be available to help cover the cost of workplace adaptations to enable you to carry out your job without being at a disadvantage. For more information, go to www.gov.uk/access-to-work.
  • Fit for work can provide support if you are in work and/or if you're off sick from work. If you have been (or are likely to be) off work for four weeks or more, you can also be referred to an occupational health professional. For more information, go to www.fitforwork.org/employee.
  • Improved Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) / Wellbeing Services exist in all localities but there's not a single point of access. You should check with your GP surgery to see if this may be available near you.
  • Mind is the leading mental health charity in England and Wales. Their helpline and website provide information and support to empower anyone experiencing mental ill health and general advice on mental health-related law. For more information, go to www.mind.org.uk or call 0300 123 3393.
  • NHS choices has a website that offers information and practical advice for anyone experiencing mental ill health. For more information, go to www.nhs.uk/livewell/mentalhealth.
  • Remploy offers a free and confidential Workplace Mental Health Support Service if you are absent from work or finding work difficult because of a mental health condition. It aims to help people remain in (or return to) their role. For more information, go to www.remploy.co.uk or call 0300 4568114.
  • Rethink Mental Illness is the largest national voluntary sector provider of mental health services, offering support groups, advice and information on mental health problems. For more information, go to www.rethink.org or call 0300 5000 927.
  • Trade unions - if you are a trade union member, you can seek help and guidance from your trade union representative.

Acas training and support

Acas can also tailor management training for your organisation and deliver it in your workplace.

By training a group of managers at once we can ensure that the course focuses on your own policies, procedures and real-life situations. You can ensure that managers have a consistent understanding and also save time and money. An Acas expert will work with your managers or HR department to assess your needs and design a training programme tailored to your organisation.

Contact Acas using our online enquiry form to let us know how we can help. Alternatively, call our customer services team on 0300 123 1150.

We also run practical Training courses to equip managers, supervisors and HR professionals develop the necessary skills to deal with people management issues and to create more productive workplace environments.