The wellbeing of employees is not a "fluffy nice to have" but a "business imperative", according to Right Management Workplace Wellness.
Setting out the business case for workplace wellbeing, clinical director Kevin Friery told delegates at PBUK that all employers were likely to encounter a handful of employees experiencing a common mental disorder each week.
According to World Health Organisation figures, 16% of working adults aged 16-64 will experience symptoms of a common mental health disorder each week, with half of these benefiting from help. However, of this half, just under a third actually went out of their way to get help.
Friery explained that employee assistance programmes (EAPs) could help workers gain much quicker access to support than through their GP.
"Many individuals will be helped on day one with the intervention of an employee assistance programme which will be sufficient to change the direction of what's wrong with them.
"If I phone my doctor in Portsmouth and say I'm depressed can I see somebody, they might say yes come in a couple of weeks' time or we can see you in the next 48 hours and put you on the list for therapy in six to 10 weeks. If you phone an EAP, they'll be able to talk to you that day or any day and be able to see you within a week," he said.
Friery added that it was difficult for managers to weave a path through an organisation and not encounter employees with such problems, so it was essential to equip them with the skills needed to be able to cope when situations arose.
"As an organisation what are you doing to train your managers to cope - not to be therapists because I think that's the worst possible thing - but how do you train managers to have good conversations with those people and to work effectively with those people?
"With common mental disorders, managers need to be skilled to work with colleagues who are experiencing those and with severe and enduring mental illnesses. I don't think it's realistic to expect them to have those skills, what managers need to know is where can they go for help and advice," Friery continued.
While Friery noted that presenteeism was an issue that could not be fixed completely, he said that it could be minimised.
This could be achieved by concentrating on five particular areas of individual wellbeing including:
- Connecting with people
- Being active
- Taking notice and being aware of the world around you
- Carrying on learning
- Giving something back, such as volunteering days and contributing to the community