Executives must listen to HR on mental health

Lizzie Buxton

Written By Lizzie Buxton

19th June 2018

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Mental ill-health accounts for more sick days than ever before – and 79% of HR professionals believe their senior management underestimates the seriousness of the issue.Those are some of the findings from new research by AdviserPlus, based on a survey of 145 HR leaders and analysis of 150,000 absence records. While employers are making progress in other areas of absence management, 30% of all recorded sick days in the sample were connected to mental health conditions – and the proportion is growing.

The Board is still not listening

mental health and hr

If these figures are reflected in your workplace, but you’re struggling to convince your board to take mental health seriously, you’re not alone. In 79% of cases, our respondents said the issue was more important than senior managers realised; worse, one in eight rated their organisation’s proactivity as zero or one out of ten.   But these are by no means the only noteworthy findings from the study:

  • Men are now more likely than women to report mental health problems. While the proportion of mental health conditions reported by women has stayed broadly constant over the last six years, the proportion among men has increased by almost a third.
  • Most HR leaders want organisation-wide mental health training. In particular, awareness training for line managers could help to prevent the escalation of small issues. Organisations might also consider including mental wellbeing in their induction training.

Opportunities for change The research also hints that this could be an opportune moment to see real change – if senior management can be persuaded to devote time and resources to the issue. It seems likely that recent, high-profile coverage – like to Time to Change’s “Be in your mate’s corner” campaign – could have served to reduce the stigma around mental ill health. If employees – and men in particular – are now more open to discussing mental ill health, they could also be more likely to engage with HR communications and support.

Three ways to make a difference

As the UK’s leading provider of managed HR advisory services, AdviserPlus has seen first-hand the methods that have enabled employers to make a difference to their people’s mental wellbeing. In particular, there are three immediate steps that can help you to seize the moment, and bring about the change your colleagues need.

  1. Train line managers, so they’re confident in having the sensitive, day-to-day conversations that can stop employees’ minor concerns becoming more serious issues. Improving managers’ awareness will also help your reporting.
  2. Embed mental ill-health alongside your disability processes. This helps you to take account that psychological struggles are easy to conceal, and makes you more inclusive and supportive by default. Perhaps consider the Disability Confidence scheme
  3. When you report on mental health-related absence, be sure to link it to your organisation’s bottom line. Help senior managers to understand how much time, resources and productivity are being lost – this may be easier with case management software.

If having independent research at your fingertips would help you to make your case to management, download our full report for free – with more detailed findings and recommendations.

Download Report

If you’d like to find out how AdviserPlus can help you with your mental health at work awareness and training programme, get in touch for an informal discussion.


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