Many mental health issues have a dynamic nature; every employee has different levels of mental health at any given time. Contributor Charles Alberts, Head of Health Management at Aon.
Debt, separation and bullying are the personal issues of most concern to employers when it comes to employee mental health, according to Aon, a leading global professional services firm providing a broad range of risk, retirement and health solutions (NYSE: AON). It polled employers online and during an Aon seminar called the Contemporary Drivers of Mental Health, in which Paul Farmer, CEO of Mind and co-author of a government report, ‘Thriving at Work, a review of mental health and employers’ presented his findings.
Of the 92 employers surveyed in Aon’s poll, 39 stated that money and debt were their biggest concerns for employee mental health, 27 said divorce and separation, and 26 said bullying and harassment was the biggest issue.
Loneliness is also a factor in today’s workplaces, with 22 employers highlighting it as a factor. Working carers (17 employers), bereavement (16), technology (16), home/lone working (14) and the menopause (13) are also of concern. The poll enabled employers to highlight other mental health issues. These were addiction, which eight employers noted as an issue, along with gender (7), sexuality (6) and race (4).
Aon has published a paper, The Contemporary Drivers of Mental Health, showing the issues that can contribute to or cause poor employee mental health. It details how understanding and addressing concerns with a broader, more comprehensive approach is required to help prevent issues from occurring, detecting any problems early on, providing rapid interventions and supporting employees who have longer-term issues.
Charles Alberts, head of health management at Aon, said: “There are many drivers of poor mental health both in and out of work and because mental health has a dynamic nature, employees will have different levels of mental health at any given time. Some of these issues may be newly identified and therefore not yet fully considered by employers; others may be taboo, exacerbating the original personal issue and creating a culture of silence that can be more difficult to tackle.”
Beyond the effects of poor mental health on the individual, mental health is a significant issue for businesses. It can increase presenteeism and absence, negatively impact productivity, morale and engagement, amounting to an average cost per employee of between £1,205 and £1,560 per year, according to Deloitte. This cost is for all employees, not just those who are ill.
Alberts added: “It is not difficult to see why so many people may be impacted by poor mental health. Relate research, for instance, shows that 18 percent of relationships are in a distressed state at any one time1. Relationship failure is second only to bereavement as a cause of mental distress. Of concern, too, are the 1 in 9 people in the UK who currently combine work with caring responsibilities for elderly relatives. By 2040, when the 65 and over age bracket will account for 25 percent of the population, that 1 in 9 is projected to be 1 in 6, according to Eldercare. The issue is even more daunting for those tasked with caring for elderly parents alongside children – the so-called ‘sandwich generation’ of approximately 2.4 million people in the UK.
“Within any organisational demographic there will be thriving workers, struggling workers and those with mental illness, so interventions are needed such as designing a positive, open and supportive culture around mental health and mitigating any psychosocial risks in the workplace itself, as well as providing access to treatment and services and supporting recovery from mental illness.”