Blue Monday: Who’s picking up the mental health tab?

Fiona Cannon
Fog Shrouds Central London
Source: Getty

Following a season of parties, over consumption, end of year targets, and the prospect of keeping New Year’s resolutions, it’s no wonder the aftermath of the festive period can be a time of acute mental health issues.

It’s also a time of particular difficulty for those with year-round conditions.

The UK faces a significant challenge to improve the way that mental health issues are approached in the workplace, and this change needs to be driven from the very top.

One in four of us in the UK are affected by a mental health issue in any given year, and mental health conditions are the second highest cause of absences reported to the Health & Safety Executive. This costs UK employers an estimated £26bn each year.

Thriving at Work, a report commissioned by the Prime Minister last year, found that 300,000 people with long-term mental health problems lose their jobs each year.

It also found that investment in workplace interventions led to consistently positive returns for businesses, as organisations perform best for customers and stakeholders when they have a focused, engaged, and healthy workforce.

From a personal and practical point of view, it makes good business sense to care about the wellbeing of our colleagues. And it is in all employers’ best interest to promote positive wellbeing at work.

Acknowledging Blue Monday today is a step in the right direction to help highlight mental health issues in the workplace.

Our ambition is for businesses to move towards a year round commitment to mental health that can have a positive impact on both a business and its workforce.

Listen to your colleagues

Providing an open platform will bring focus to the issue and encourage more employees to reach out and seek help.

At Lloyds Banking Group, we gathered insight from focus groups and internal forums with employees impacted by poor mental health. In particular, these forums identified the importance of the line manager relationship, which resulted in the development of tailored mental health and wellbeing training to support their colleagues.

Make mental health an issue for everyone

Mental health and wellbeing is relevant to everyone, and employers should take responsibility for providing opportunities for all colleagues to educate themselves.

Systemic cultural attitudes, like the taboo surrounding mental health, cannot be resolved by isolating the issue to HR.

Our purpose-built mental health e-learning course was completed by over 28,000 Lloyds colleagues in 2017 alone, and this has led to a significant increase in colleagues’ willingness to openly discuss mental health.

Create a culture of care

We have found that encouraging our colleagues to give back has raised the profile of the issue in the workplace, and nurtured a more caring culture.

Our partnership with Mental Health UK offers volunteering and fundraising opportunities to colleagues across Lloyds Banking Group, which has set a target of raising at least £2m per year for the charity. We massively exceeded this target in the first year, raising over £4m to date.

In the workplace, mental health can still be a subject that not everyone wants to talk about, and one we tend to focus on only when things go wrong.

By making mental health and wellbeing a year-round focus, we can help our colleagues feel confident and equipped to support customers and each other.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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