Img: BPS 
Wellbeing in the workplace is something of a hot topic at the moment, and rightly so. There is a growing understanding among employers that in order to get the best result out of a workforce, their health and wellbeing both physical and mental must be safeguarded. In line with this school of thought the British Psychological Society (BPS) have published a new report which delves into how our working lives can impact upon our health, and vice versa, before making recommendations as to how policy makers and employers can begin to tackle these interconnected challenges.

The report, released on November 14th and titled ‘Psychology at Work: Improving Wellbeing and Productivity in the Workplace’, places particular emphasis on issues surrounding mental health and neurodiversity*; an important endeavour given how such subjects seem to be all-too-often avoided by both employers and employees alike. Ignoring these issues rather than taking steps to address them will only exacerbate the problem further, which will lead to harm not only for the individual in question but also the company or organisation as a whole as their productivity and overall quality of work declines in accordance with their mental wellbeing.

Dr Ashley Weinberg, co-author of the report, said of the intent of the research and subsequent publication, “Poorly designed jobs, work that is not well organised and challenging work environments can trigger or exacerbate mental health conditions. For some people with physical or mental health conditions or disabilities, a lack of the right support from employers can make finding and keeping a meaningful job difficult, while for many people who are unemployed, navigating the current welfare system to find work, claim benefits, or seek suitable support can be an extremely negative experience.

“Our report offers solutions to many of these problems. It emphasises ways to make work more attractive, rather than make unemployment even more punitive. It details the evidence for improving employee physical and mental wellbeing that not only reduces sickness but also positively impacts on a company’s performance. We will work to influence policy makers, commissioners, practitioners and employers to apply relevant psychological theory, evidence and practice to design interventions that work for people and businesses.”

More than a quarter of the European adult population has experienced some form of mental disorder in the past year, according to statistics provided by the World Health Organisation (WHO), and while this figure has seen little movement in recent years the number of reported absences from work due to mental health issues such as depression or anxiety has shown a steady increase over the past decade, indicating that something must be done before further damage is done to both the economy and the wellbeing of the working population.

To this end the report goes on to offer advice to employers and policy makers regarding the measures they can put in place in order to better protect the health and wellbeing of their workforce. These provided recommendations include:
  • The use of government incentives to encourage the introduction of evidence-based interventions which promote a psychologically healthy workforce
  • Increased support and communication from employers, particularly those employing people on zero-hour contracts, so that workers can carefully consider the psychological impact of atypical work arrangements and job insecurity
  • The utilisation of workplace design concepts and working practices which actively protect the health and wellbeing of employees
  • Organisations to recognise the behaviours of managers which will help to minimise stress-related problems, i.e. fostering positive supervisory behaviours and enhancing managers’ capacity to identify and act on symptoms of poor psychological health among employees
  • Active promotion of the government’s ‘Access to Work’ Scheme in an audience-friendly way that explains what support is available in easy to understand language
  • Employers to actively create a culture of disclosure to encourage employees to seek the right support when they need it
  • Employers to adopt working practices that support neurodiverse people
  • The DH and the DWP to utilise ‘meaningful activity’ rather than ‘work’ as an outcome measure
Vicki Nash, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Mind, commented on the report, “In the last few years, we’ve seen more and more employers being proactive when it comes to tackling stress and supporting the mental wellbeing of their staff, including those with a diagnosed mental health problem. However, there is more to do and employers do need to recognise the different approaches they may need to adopt in how they address mental health in the workplace.

“We already know that 300,000 people with a long term mental health problem lose their jobs each year and this report provides yet more evidence that workplace mental health needs to be a priority for organisations across the country. Every employer has a responsibility to support employees with mental health problems and promote the mental wellbeing of their entire workforce.”

Dr Weinberg concluded, “Successive UK governments have attempted to address issues around work, health, and disability, but this has yet to achieve real traction. Our new report emphasises ways to make work more attractive, rather than make unemployment even more punitive. It also provides the evidence that improving staff mental physical and mental wellbeing not only reduces sickness but also positively impacts on a company’s performance.”

*The report defines neurodiversity as “differences in people’s skills and abilities, for example some people have an outstanding memory but find comprehension difficult. Whilst everyone has strengths and weaknesses, for some people the difference between them is significant. For neurodiverse people, some tasks will seem easy and others impossible.”

Examples of neurodiverse conditions include: ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia/Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), Tourette Syndrome (TS), Dyscalculia, and Dysgraphia.

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor as he continues to expand his horizons.
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