Never has mental health and wellbeing been so widely reported and discussed than it is today. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines mental health as ‘a state of wellbeing in which the individual realises his or her abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community’. The reality is that 1 in 6 people are affected with mental health problems, and as such, this sobering statistic would conclude that we are all in the presence of someone affected in the workplace.
In October 2017, Stephenson and Farmer submitted their review of mental health and employees “Thriving at Work” to Prime Minister Theresa May. Since then, further studies across the globe have all supported and concluded that mental health problems in the workplace are increasing. Currently the estimated cost to the UK automotive industry of absenteeism, presenteeism, and staff turnover associated with mental health is £1.2billion per year (BEN, Moving up a gear, October 2019).
Change in reported common mental health conditions in the past year. 2019, (n = 237 for small, 297 for large)
So why is this?
Despite the automotive industry providing exciting and diverse career opportunities, there are many contributing factors which can lead to employees developing mental health concerns. These include:
- Leaveism – being unable to switch off from work. Technology has created an “always on” culture that adversely affects an employee’s wellbeing and personal life. “51% of employees work outside contracted hours to get work done” (CIPD, Health and Wellbeing at work Annual Survey, April 2019).
- Pressure – High sales targets in both sales and aftersales are a contributing factors in the development of mental health problems for employees. Alarmingly, “62% of managers faced situations where they put the interests of their organisation above the wellbeing of colleagues” (BITC, Mental health at work report, 2019).
- Presenteeism – attending work when unwell; “whilst the percentage of days off due to any type of illness is around 25% lower than a decade ago, various studies suggest that presenteeism is increasing year on year” (Stephenson and Falmer, Thriving at work, 2017).
- Work Life Balance – Not taking days off or annual leave; “Almost four in ten organisations say employees use allocated time off (like holiday) when unwell, and a third say employees use allocated time off (for example holiday) to work” (CIPD, Health and wellbeing at work, March 2020).
Even with national and international advertising campaigns, mental health is still considered a taboo subject according to Public Health England, with many cases going unreported due to the perceived stigma associated with conditions such as depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Perhaps more concerning is that “27% of employees fear negative consequences if they make their mental health issues formal”, (BITC, Mental Health at Work Report, 2019). Whilst many organisations are taking proactive steps to focus on mental health and wellbeing in their workplaces, these findings suggest that culturally and strategically, all industries including our own have much more to do.
It is essential that companies create a culture that encourages open conversations around mental health and wellbeing, so that affected colleagues feel confident in seeking support. “Only support and strategic leadership from the top will create organisational cultures, where management styles based on openness and mutual respect can flourish” (CIPD, People Managers’ Guide to mental health, September 2018). At a local level, the role of the departmental manager is paramount in providing an environment and culture that is supportive and positive. However, “44% of employees say their manager doesn’t check in with them about how they are doing” (BEN, Moving up a gear, October 2019).
Encouragingly, all studies concur that large organisations are providing greater support and resources than they were 4 years ago, thereby improving the awareness of employee mental health and wellbeing. However, the same studies provide statistics that indicate that the journey has just started, for example:
57% of line managers are bought into the importance of employee wellbeing, (CIPD, Health and Wellbeing at Work, March 2020).
11% of managers in the UK have received training on understanding workplace stressors, (BITC, Mental Health at Work Report, 2019).
17% of employees aged 18 – 20 suffer from depression, (Deloitte, Mental health and employers, January 2020).
32% of managers said simple guidance on how to be able to talk to those with mental health problems, and training on the management of wellbeing, would be welcomed, (BITC, Mental Health at Work Report, 2019).
19.8% of women in full-time employment have a common mental health problem, (Stansfeld et. al., Mental health and wellbeing England: Adult Psychiatric morbidity survey, 2014).
17.2 men per 100,000 of the population committed suicide in 2018, an increase on 2017, (Office of National Statistics, Suicides in the UK, 2018 registrations, September 2019).
So how can we help?
Automotive Minds provide certified workshops and e-learning packages that are tailored specifically to the causes of mental health and wellbeing in the automotive industry. Considering “9% of employees have attended training focused only on mental health” (BITC, Mental Health at Work Report, Sept 2019), Automotive Minds provide a holistic approach, incorporating wellbeing strategies that are proven to benefit both the employer and employee.
Investment into mental health training and development is perhaps now the greatest employee benefit an organisation can provide. We offer your leadership teams the knowledge, empathy, and confidence to set the example, by speaking openly about taking care of oneself and each other. Together we can make a profound difference in the lives of our colleagues when they are touched with these hidden and silent problems. Together we will reduce the stigma of mental health and be a beacon of change for other industries to follow.