Book News: November 12th, 2009

Productivity across the UK is being significantly undermined by people coming to work with poor mental health as a result of stress and conditions such as anxiety and depression. This is the conclusion of a report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

The survey on which the report is based, found that more than a quarter of UK workers described their mental health as moderate or poor, with more than 90 per cent of those suffering from poor mental health saying it affects their performance on the job.

The survey also highlights the need for employers to focus more efforts on managing this challenging issue, as only a third of workers say their organisation supports people with mental health problems well.

Poor mental health impacts on performance and nearly four out of five employees with poor mental health find it difficult to concentrate at work as a result of their illness and 57 per cent say they take longer to do work. Half of respondents say that they put off challenging tasks as a result of going in to work with poor mental health.

Management focus is normally on absences resulting from poor mental health problems but the report highlights the need for better management for those people who continue to attend. There is a warning that managers can be part of the problem when they put excessive workloads on staff or have a bullying management style which are likely to either create or exacerbate mental health problems at work. In contrast, managers who communicate well and consult, coach and develop their staff are more likely to support positive mental health and resilience in the people they manage.

Managers are also the people in organisations that should spot the early warning signs, such as changes in performance or behaviour which might indicate someone is not coping at work. Managers can ensure that people with mental health difficulties are referred to occupational health where these services are available or advise them to see their GP if they have not already done so at an early stage before their problems escalate. In some cases, managers may even be able to help people cope with their problems through informal counselling.