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2023 Spring Conference Bitesize: Julie White - Cost of mental ill health to business up 25% since Covid

Date: 25 May 2023

2023 Spring Conference Bitesize: Julie White - Cost of mental ill health to business up 25% since Covid

Bitesize Summary

Wellbeing coach Julie White of consultancy, Bright White Life, set out why it’s important for organisations to invest time and resource in employees’ mental health. 

The link between mental and financial health 
Julie said evidence showed individuals who are economically stressed – on low incomes, unemployed or in debt – were at greater risk of mental ill health and suicide.

  • People with problem debt are three times more likely to have had recent suicidal thoughts 
  • In 2021, there were 5,583 suicides registered in England and Wales. 
[Source: Money and Mental Health Charity]
Mental health difficulties are extremely common: 
  • 1 in 4 of us will experience difficulties in any year 
  • 1 in 6 will experience difficulties at any given time.
To the backdrop of what has been termed a ‘permacrisis’ – the feeling of moving straight from one crisis to another – Julie said some organisations are experiencing a rise in their people ‘quiet quitting’, meaning that although they remain employed, they are demotivated and putting in the bare minimum of effort to keep their job.
Statistics show*:
  • The cost of mental ill health to UK businesses is now at a record £53-56bn per year marking a 25% increase on 2019
  • Burnout is prevalent in both Gen Z (born late 1990s to early 2010s) and millennials (born 1981-1996)
  • Employers are focusing more on mental health but the stigma remains
  • Many employees now expect more support from their employer regarding wellbeing
[Source Deloitte March 2022]
The benefits of an organisation that invests in the wellbeing of its people include
  • Improved productivity
  • Improved retention
  • Increased attraction of new talent
  • Increased ability to attract investment 
  • “If you look after your people, they will look after you.”
[Source BITC Report April 2023]

Stress bucket
There are many factors that cause stress to people both in and out of the workplace, including:  
  • Lack of control over way work is done
  • Too much /too little work
  • Lack of role definition
  • Unsatisfactory relationships
  • Vicarious stress and trauma
  • Lack of feedback
  • Lack of information
  • Work too demanding or lacks challenge
  • Organisation change
They can relieve some stress by: 
Adopting helpful coping strategies including 
  • doing things they enjoy, 
  • self care
  • problem-solving 
  • active worry management
It is unhelpful to use drugs or alcohol to relieve stress. 
Spotting signs 
  • Uncharacteristic behaviour
  • Low levels of engagement 
  • Decreased in productivity
  • Changes in sleeping or eating behaviours
  • Disinterest in work or day to day activities
  • Increased absence
  • Changes in working patterns
  • Withdrawal from social situations
  • Irrational fears paranoia or anxiety
  • Substance use/misuse
How to help
  • Work on creating a supportive culture
  • Reduce the stigma
  • Know your team
  • Lead by example
  • Listening 
  • Early intervention
How to talk about it
  • You’re a manager not a medical expert
  • Be available
  • Make confidentiality clear
  • Start the conversation
  • Ask twice
  • Utilise a check-in scale (eg how are you feeling on a scale of 1 to 10?)
  • It’s okay to not have the answers.
What next?
  • Provide resources such as Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs), access to counselling, signposting to mental health organisations
  • Provide training – give managers the skills and confidence to open conversations
  • Regularly remind employees of the benefits and support in place
  • Listen to people and recognise what extra support they may need
  • Find out how you might access this support through your existing providers
  • Take action and follow up 
  • Build resilience – support teams to navigate
  • Take a holistic approach – one size doesn’t fit all.

Julie drew attention to the fact that as many as five generations could be working together in a single organisation:
“Each of those five generations are approaching work with a different set of experiences. What we see and how we perceive the world is different for each and every one of us, and that might be through the fact that we are different ages. 
“We have different work experiences, we have different genders. We may have disabilities, we may have chronic illness, we may have different educational experiences. 
“All of those things create our frame of reference and how we make sense of the world, of other people and ourselves, and that will impact on how we might respond to others.”
She urged people to talk about mental health:  
“I know it's not easy, especially if you've grown up in a generation or are from a background where that's just not what you do. It's not easy, but even if it's simply signposting your employees to the support that is there, I would encourage you to do so.”

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