Someone forgot their meds

Born in 1970 I started work just before turning 18 in the late 80’s, at which time no one spoke about Mental Health and showing any kind of weakness at work was a definite no no. I worked long hours, got stressed and dealt with it, so when Mental Health started to be talked about, like many people of my age I laughed and probably made bad jokes like the title of this blog. Which if you look at this on face value is a terrible thing to say, you wouldn’t say that to a colleague with diabetes or heart problems who is slumped in a doorway after forgetting their meds.  

More recently, I have realized the error of my ways and looking back I can see how potentially damaging poor management and leadership can be on an organization. Nowadays I invest a great deal of energy researching how to reduce stress and mental health issues in the workplace, so me and my team are equipped to help our customers avoid the impact they have on their people and the companies they represent.

According to a recent study by Deliotte (Mental health and employers | Refreshing the case for investment)

Mental health problems will soon surpass other work-related illnesses!

It is projected that as a percentage of the total number of instances of poor health at work, mental health problems will soon surpass other work-related illnesses such as musculoskeletal disorders, respiratory diseases, cancer, skin issues, and hearing damage.

Now you may be thinking, sure people who are susceptible to Mental Health issues might take more time off and might cost a little more than those who aren’t, but you have bigger problems to deal with.

The interesting thing is the cost of Absenteeism represents just 15% of the total estimated 44.7bn being lost by UK businesses, so where’s the other £37.9bn being lost?

Staff Turnover has to make up a big chunk right? The cost of recruitments, re-training, the lost performance as people get up to speed….According to this study there’s another £9bn lost to staff turnover, leaving a massive £28.9bn unaccounted for.

Let me introduce a word I had never heard of before reading the Deliotte study “Presenteeism”, never heard of it, me neither. Presenteeism occurs when individuals come into work when they are unwell (with poor mental health) and work at a reduced level of productivity or effectiveness.

Presenteeism costs UK businesses twice as much as absenteeism and staff turnover combined!

On average 81% of employees surveyed said that they always or usually come into the office when they are struggling with mental health, and would benefit from time off. This is almost fourteen times as many as those who say they always or usually take time off.

But surely if those employees are still coming to work, when for their own health and safety they should just take the day off, will your absenteeism still increase? Yes it will but the research also shows that people who recognise they need a break and are able to talk to their managers about their feelings of anxiety, stress and burn out, without fear of losing their jobs are far more likely to perform at their best and stay loyal for longer, saving money in employee turnover. In a contact centre setting, these people are more likely to deliver great customer care.

OK so far, we have ascertained that this is one of, if not the most expensive issue facing UK businesses and could even be categorised as a pandemic. Bear in mind the definition of a pandemic is something that occurs over a wide geographic area and typically affects a significant proportion of the population, and according to 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year and this number is growing. So what are some of the causes? Rather than list them all, I’m going to concentrate on the causes which I help SJS customers to overcome:

Number one, representing 52% was “pressure” too many priorities or targets, this is something we address when we work with organisations which measure employee performance using wallboards and dashboards. When aligning these visual tools with neuroscience its possible to maintain or improve performance without putting them under unnecessary pressure.

35% said their Mental Health issues was caused by not being supported in their role, this would also include people who had been supported but who felt they had not been supported, because feeling supported is of course the most important factor here. Again, we spend a lot of time showing our customers how cleverly scheduling anything that will require a change in behaviour in their employees to appear on TV screens, desktops or mobile devices will create more certainty and a feeling of being supported.  

24% Feeling lonely or isolated at work, this one has become a major issue for many UK business due to the pandemic, and many organisations have chosen to ignore the importance for people to feel connected, or part of something greater than themselves. Many companies I have spoken to believe, incorrectly, that their employees just need to know how many calls are in the queue, or how much they have sold and will not benefit from celebrating birthdays, work anniversaries and other social messaging – I’m sorry to say that this opinion is not supported by the science, in fact more than ever people need to feel connected.  

“The costs to employers of poor mental health in the workplace are substantial. Using conservative assumptions, we estimate a total annual cost to businesses up to £45bn, comprising £7bn in absence costs, £27bn – £29bn in presenteeism costs and £9bn in costs of staff turnover. There are also other indirect costs to employers of poor mental health, such as the adverse impact on creativity, innovation, and colleagues.”