Wed 23 Oct 2019

Workplace Wellbeing - November 2019

Our regular look at mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.

In the past two months we have seen National Inclusion Week, National Work Life Week and World Mental Health Day.  Given the findings of a recent report by Business in the Community and Mercer Marsh Benefits that suggests workplace culture contributes to psychological harm these events seem all the more important in raising awareness.  The report found 39% of workers have suffered symptoms of poor mental health because of their job.  Issues include working overtime and not taking annual leave to meet workload demands and the report calls for organisations to create good work that enhances mental health, acknowledge and support poor mental health irrespective of cause and publicly report on their staff wellbeing performance. 

National Inclusion Week is an annual event raising awareness of the significance of having a diverse and inclusive workforce.  This year the CIPD released a report Building Inclusive Workplaces to coincide with the week that drew a distinction between the two concepts. The CIPD make the point that diversity refers to demographic differences of a group while inclusion is the extent to which everyone at work, regardless of their background, identity or circumstance, feels valued, accepted and supported to succeed at work. The report highlights that increasing diversity within an organisation doesn't result in every individual within the organisation being able to succeed in work.  Employees within the same company can experience the workplace very differently depending on their line manager and team, background and circumstance.   One key issue put forward by the report is the need for organisations to appreciate that inclusion is not about allowing different people to "fit in" but instead is about creating an environment where everyone is appreciated for their differences.    This is another area where progressive businesses can get a head start on competitors and reap the benefits of allowing differing skill sets to flourish.

National Work Life week was higher profile - there must be very few workplaces now who do not recognise the importance of the right work-life balance being achieved for their employees.  The week aims to get employers and employees talking about wellbeing at work and work life fit.  Working Families - an organisation whose mission it is to achieve a society in which everyone can fully meet their work and caring responsibilities - published a Toolkit for Employers including top tips on how to promote work life balance and wellbeing within organisations.  At Morton Fraser we asked some of our employees about the benefits of part time working and flexible working and their experience of adapting to a work life balance

World Mental Health day is not limited to the work place - its purpose is to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world in all aspects of life.  This annual event takes place on 10 October each year.  With stress and poor mental health in the workplace on the increase and a recent poll suggesting that less than half of employees would speak to their manager about poor mental health this is an area which will continue to be a focus for businesses and HR for some time to come. 

Employees inability to "switch off" has for some time now been cited as one aspect of the modern workplace that contributes to stress and poor wellbeing.  In fact, in France in 2017 the right to disconnect was enshrined in a law requiring companies with more than 50 workers to draw up a charter of good conduct which includes setting out hours when staff are not to send or answer emails. However, according to researchers at the University of Sussex this is something of a double edged sword with news that a ban on out of hours emails could harm employee wellbeing, something the CIPD agrees with.  The research recognised that some employees need to be able to respond to a growing accumulation of emails or they could end up feeling more stressed and overloaded.  So when it comes to switching off, blanket bans are to be avoided.

Despite all these difficulties faced by both employees and employers there is some good news - according to the Workplace Happiness survey set up by Engaging Works (which was founded by Lord Mark Price, former government minister for trade and MD of Waitrose) the UK is the eighth happiest workplace in the world, moving up two places from last year.  The top ten also included Jersey and Ireland, with Romania, Belgium and Italy taking the top three spots.  At a regional level, Scotland did well with 72.5% of workers saying they were happy, although that still rated lower than London, Northern Ireland, Yorkshire and the Humber region and the South East.  The West Midlands lead the way with 81% of its workers saying they were happy.

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