The City is coming together to end stigma around mental health in the workplace

Charles Bowman
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Work continues across the Square Mile to raise awareness about mental health (Source: Getty)

If you asked a City employer what their most valuable assets were, you’d hope most of them would answer “our people”. But how can you look after assets as complicated as people?

At any one time, one sixth of the working-age population of Great Britain experience symptoms associated with mental ill health, and with the majority of the City’s 483,000-strong workforce employed in highly-skilled roles, mental health and wellbeing is increasingly recognised as a business-critical issue.

Supporting the health and well-being of the workforce is not only a moral obligation for organisations – it is also of financial benefit.

Read more: Time to Talk Day: My story of mental illness at work

According to research carried out by Deloitte, employees’ poor mental health costs employers between £33 and £42bn annually. As well as sickness absence and staff turnover, these losses are caused by the phenomenon of presenteeism, when employees are at their desks but just not productive. The wider economy and the NHS also feel the knock-on effects, so improving mental health can have far-reaching benefits.

There is a strong commitment in the City of London to the mental health and wellbeing of our workers, residents and visitors.

The newly launched Dragon Cafe in the City is a free facility open to anyone working or living in the Square Mile, to take a break. It brings together partners from charities, business, and the City of London Corporation to develop resilience and promote mental wellbeing among those feeling stressed or anxious. The cafe’s wide range of creative activities, in an informal setting, are offered from Shoe Lane Library, and are already being used by local businesses and their staff.

My own charity, the Lord Mayor’s Appeal, aims to end the stigma around talking about mental health in the workplace through “This is Me” and the green ribbon campaign, which will highlight the need to change attitudes. To deliver this, three charities – Place2Be, OnSide Youth Zones, and Samaritans – will come together for the first time in a partnership to work with myself and future lord mayors. In partnership with Samaritans, “Wellbeing in the City” is being launched on 9th April, with e-learning resources to promote resilience, and share the Samaritans’ expertise in active listening.

Looking to the business community, the City of London Corporation’s Business Healthy programme and the City Mental Health Alliance both provide platforms for employers to demonstrate and share best practice in this area.

Our charitable funder, City Bridge Trust, last year established its “Bridge to Work” programme, which includes help for young Londoners with mental health issues to access employment and appropriate healthcare services.

Local campaigns, including “Release the Pressure” and the Mayor of London-backed “Thrive LDN”, have raised awareness and encouraged people to seek support, and also helped to start vital conversations about how we are doing, and how we could be better at dealing with mental health.

Work continues across the Square Mile to raise awareness about mental health among our worker and resident communities. This looks set to intensify as more employers make mental wellbeing a priority. As organisations’ standards are raised, so do the expectations of clients and talented workers. It is a race to the top, and nobody wants to miss out.

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

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