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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, managers and employees take steps to promote positive mental health, recognise the warning signs and support anyone experiencing mental ill health.

The Acas framework for positive mental health at work

The Acas framework for positive mental health at work recommends that responsibility for positive wellbeing and productive workplaces is shared between employers, managers and employees.

You can download a copy of the pdf icon Acas framework for positive mental health at work [342kb].

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.

People that have good mental health are more likely to:

  • work productively
  • interact well with colleagues
  • have good attendance levels
  • make a valuable contribution to the workplace.

Yet 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 mental ill health from time to time.

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

The impact of mental ill health at work

The estimated cost of mental ill health to UK employers each year is between £33 billion and £42 billion.

Additionally a Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development study highlighted the impact that mental ill health can have on organisations. It 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.

Employers should therefore be taking steps to support staff and promote positive mental health in their workplace.

What can employers do to promote positive mental health in their workplace?

Promoting positive mental health in your workplace can be hugely beneficial. Staff with good mental health are more likely to perform well, have good attendance levels and be engaged in their work.

However it can be difficult for employers to know what they should do. Our step by step guide can help employers create a working environment that encourages better mental health and provide appropriate support to any employee that experiences mental ill health.

For more information, go to Promoting positive mental health in the workplace.

How should managers manage staff experiencing mental ill health?

Managers should be confident in supporting staff experiencing mental ill health. It is important that managers are able to spot the signs of mental ill health, know how to approach conversations sensitively and support their team member if they are experiencing mental ill health.

Managers wanting help and advice should go to the Acas guidance on Managing staff experiencing mental ill health.

Dealing with stress in the workplace

Acas research pdf icon Stress and anxiety at work: personal or cultural? [324kb] indicates that two thirds of employees suffered stress and/or anxiety in the past year.

Reducing work-related stress can be hugely beneficial to an employer - reducing absence levels and improving overall performance. Employers also have a legal obligation to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees.

Organisations should be thinking about the causes of workplace stress, how to reduce them in their workplace and how best to support staff when they do experience stress.

For more information, go to Dealing with stress in the workplace.

Workplace Anxiety & Work Related Anxiety

Anxiety is a feeling of worry, fear, nervousness or unease about something. Employers and managers should understand what can cause anxiety and what signs may indicate a team member is experiencing anxiety.

For more information, go to Workplace Anxiety & Work Related Anxiety.

Acas published research on mental health

  • pdf icon Stress and anxiety at work: personal or cultural? [324kb] - Acas commissioned a YouGov poll to find out more about individuals' current experience of mental health at work, specifically what are the causes and reactions to stress and anxiety in the workplace.
  • pdf icon The Management of Mental Health at Work [601kb] - Mental illness is the largest single cause of disability in the UK and the range of mental health conditions can make its management difficult and challenging. This report explores a range of learning points that can be drawn from this case study research to promote positive mental health at work.

How have other organisations approached mental health at work?

For more on what Acas people and others say about promoting mental health in the workplace, see our blogs.

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.

  • 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.

Further Acas support and training on mental health in the workplace

Acas offers training to help employers better understand mental health in the workplace. Our training improves skills in identifying issues and helps increase confidence in supporting colleagues.

View and book a training course near you. We can also tailor training to meet your organisation's needs and deliver it at your workplace.

For free e-learning on mental health awareness, visit Acas Learning OnLine.

If your organisation is experiencing specific concerns regarding mental health, our specialists can help diagnose the cause and tailor practical solutions. To find out more:

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