1 in 4 people in the UK will have a mental health problem at some point in their lives. While common, most are mild, tend to be short-term and are normally successfully treated, with medication by a GP. With the current Covid-19 presence and increasing pressure on businesses, many have been forced to move their operations remotely, resulting in a majority of employees working from home, it is known that this has been a main culprit in the rise of mental health conditions.
Mental health is about how we think, feel and behave. Anxiety and depression are the most common. They are often a reaction to a difficult life event, such as bereavement, but can also be caused by work related issues.
Work related stress; if prolonged, may lead to both physical and psychological damage, including anxiety and depression. Work may also aggravate pre-existing conditions, problems at work can bring on symptoms or make their effects worse.
Whether work is causing the issue or aggravating it, employers have a legal responsibility to help their employees, these issues must be assessed to measure the levels of risk to staff. Employers may have further legal requirements, to make reasonable adjustments under the equalities legislation.
Common mental health problems and stress can exist independently – people can experience work- related stress and physical changes such as high blood pressure, without having anxiety, depression or other mental health problems. They can also have anxiety and depression without experiencing stress, the key differences between them are their cause(s) and the way(s) they are treated.
Common mental health problems can have a single cause outside work, for example bereavement, divorce, post-natal depression, a medical condition or a family history of the problem. But people can have these sorts of problems with no obvious causes.
HSE’s management standards approach can help employers ensure that they are doing their best to ease the occurrence and/ or effect of such problems among their workforce.
The management standard approach covers six key areas of work design that, if not properly managed, are associated with poor health, lower productivity and increased accidents and sickness absence rates. These key areas are;
Demands – This includes issues such as workload, work patterns and the work environment.
Control – How much say the person has in the way they do their work.
Support – This includes the encouragement, sponsorship and resources provided by the organisation, line management and colleagues.
Relationships – This includes promoting positive working to avoid conflict and dealing with unacceptable behaviour.
Role – Whether people understand their role within the organisation and whether the organisation ensures that they do not have conflicting roles.
Change – How organisational change (Large and Small) is managed and communicated in the organisation.
To ensure that such systems/ programs are effective, suitable resources and management will need to be available.
This information and additional assistance and documentation templates are available on the hse.gov website.