Good Work and Mental Well-Being from Eduard Iacob's blog

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Good Work and Mental Well-Being

Background

Mental health problems are a huge issue affecting people and business. Statistics tell us that 1 in 4 people will be affected by a mental health problem at some time in their life with the result that 72 million working days are lost each year, at a cost of around £3.4.9bn to UK employers alone.

In recent years, policy makers and businesses alike have been increasingly engaged in the area of mental health and well-being in the workplace. However, the approach towards dealing with it is not necessarily the same as that for promoting mental health and wellbeing. For far too long the focus has been on treatment of mental disorders, and not on prevention, promotion and well-being. Well-being at work is defined as individuals’ ability to work productively and creatively, to engage in strong and positive relationships, fulfilment of personal and social goals, contribution to community, and a sense of purpose. To promote well-being at work means creating work environments that allow individuals to thrive.

Emerging risks to health and wellbeing include work intensification (high workload and information overload, high speed, increased mechanisation, automation, computerisation, more complexity), emotional demands (linked to more service-based jobs, bullying, harassment and stigmatisation), and job insecurity. These challenges have been found to be linked with work-related stress, mental ill health, sickness absence, productivity loss and early exit from the workforce.

Good work supports mental well-being for everyone. Employers are increasingly recognising the need to identify and support people with mental health problems but the wider task is to identify and address those workplace practices which build or undermine mental well-being such as workload, work schedules, role clarity, communication, rewards, teamwork, problem-solving, and relationships at work.

While many employees are now recognising that good mental health among their employees is both an asset and a source of competitive advantage and are investing in mental health awareness training for managers, there is evidence that much more could be done to address core workplace practices and cultures which have the power to either fundamentally undermine or promote mental wellbeing for all employees.

So, in pursuit of creating healthy and sustainable work environments, what can employers do to become part of the solution rather than part of the problem? To what extent are leaders and managers equipped to identify poor mental health, to provide necessary support for employees, and to take positive and focused action to build positive mental well-being at work?


Let’s talk

Even enlightened employers will be daunted by the mountain of guidelines that have been recently published following the increase in awareness of the impact of mental health at work. Guidelines are helpful and supportive but sometimes do not reflect the reality of the workplace.

To address this Fresh Thinking Labs, the membership-based international platform for workplace innovation, and the NHS-backed Mindful Employer, are facilitating the ‘Good Work and Mental Well-Being Lab’, a closed network of organisations committed to exploring leading edge practice and identifying practical, evidence-based solutions. The Lab provides a platform for employers from public and private sectors to tackle the challenges posed by mental health issues in the workplace by sharing their experiences and insights as ‘critical friends’, and developing a community of best practice from which new and innovative solutions will emerge.

In summary, the Lab:

  • Enables the sharing of good practice and ideas between workplaces.
  • Builds active relationships with your peers in other organisations.
  • Creates a forum for collaborative innovation and problem solving.
  • Bridges the gap between research and practice.
  • Draws on experience from our network of leading companies from across Europe.
  • Develops practical tools and resources for workplace change.
  • Provides access to expert guidance.

It aims to:

Raise Awareness - How can we diagnose the current workplace climate and assess the factors that contribute to, or undermine, positive workplace health? How to build the business case and win support for change? And which policies should be put in place?

Build a Momentum for Change - Once the right policies are in place, how do we raise awareness of mental health and improve the standard of practice throughout the organisation?

Rethink Job Design and Work Organisation – Can we turn line managers from barrier reef or mental health ambassadors? Training managers in mental health awareness and fostering appropriate behaviours is often necessary but what does good practice look like – and is it sufficient? How can management roles, processes and behaviours be rethought to support positive mental health and high performance simultaneously?

Building mental well-being at work requires focused leadership commitment. Senior teams need a full understanding of how the workplace can contribute to positive mental health and, in turn, to business performance. They must align corporate values with evidence-based principles and the needs of individuals throughout the organisation, and ensure their implementation in practice.

There is more information here. Companies, NGOs and public sector organisations wishing to join the ‘Good Work and Mental Well-Being Lab’ can contact Fresh Thinking Labs on 0115 9338321 or by email.

Build Positive Mental Health through Good Work