The workplace directly influences the physical, mental, economic and social well-being of workers and in turn the health of their families, communities and society. It offers an ideal setting and infrastructure to support the promotion of health of a large audience. In saying this, the health of workers is also affected by non-work related factors within society and the impact is brought into the working environment.
In the past, back pain was cited as the number one cause of absenteeism, now it is stress. There are two specific definitions of stress that are adhered to: ‘The adverse reaction a person has to excessive pressure or other types of demands placed upon them’ (HSE) and ‘That which arises when the pressure placed upon an individual exceeds the capacity of that individual to cope’ (CBI).
The stigma around mental ill health – which stress is recognised as such, has left individuals feeling reluctant to raise their hand and ask for help. Much more empathy and understanding is therefore required both in and out of the workplace to grasp the fact that what may trigger one person’s perception of a threat, is not necessarily the same for all.
The HSE Management Standards represent a set of conditions that, if present, reflect a high level of wellbeing and organisational performance, covering six key areas of work design that, if not properly managed, are associated with poor health and well-being, lower productivity and increased sickness absence:
From a legal perspective, employers have a ‘duty of care’ cited in The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (NI Order 1978) however, a counselling service does not totally cover this alone. Instead a proactive rather than reactive approach by the employer should be taken, by promoting education and awareness of stress and other mental ill-health issues in the health and safety workplace policy (Intel v Daw, 2007 and O2 v Dickins, 2008).
The WHO Healthy Workplace Model cites that investing in health and wellbeing programmes show:
SO WHAT’S THE INCENTIVE FOR EMPLOYERS TO RECOGNISE HEALTH AND WELLBEING IN THE WORKPLACE?
Office of National Statistics 2012:
ORGANISATIONS THAT PROMOTE AND PROTECT WORKERS’ HEALTH ARE AMONG THE MOST SUCCESSFUL AND COMPETITIVE COMPANIES IN THE LONG TERM
Action Mental Health (AMH) provide a plethora of services for individuals living with mental ill health as well as expert-led awareness sessions for Schools, Communities and the Business sector.