Stress Awareness Month – mental health in the workplace

By Emily Pearson, Founder & Managing Director, Our Mind’s Work

This month is Stress Awareness Month, need I say it, to increase public awareness about stress. For me, we’re already fairly aware of stress and the more aware we become, the higher the numbers climb for stress-related absence in the workplace.

Like many industries, construction has its pressures. Our industry has and always will be a stressful industry, with workload, client demands and budget concerns being a daily worry. According to statistics from safety barrier manufacturer, A-SAFE, 48% of workers are kept awake as a result of workplace stress with some losing more than 10 hours of sleep a week.

In October last year, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) released their report ‘Work-related stress depression or anxiety statistics in Great Britain’. The data showed that 2018 saw the highest rates of self-reported work-related stress, anxiety and depression since data began in 2003/04. The rates were quite stable until around 2015 when we started to see them steadily increase. This increase seems to correlate with how much we’ve ramped up awareness of “mental health in the workplace”. The more awareness we have raised has reduced sigma and therefore impacted the confidence to self-report. Add this to an increase in workplace demands and pressures and we are seeing a definite upward trend, which in 2018 accounted for 15.4 million working days lost.

This isn’t news to the HSE, as they have been interested in the impacts of work-related stress since they ran their Stress Priority Programme (SPP) between 2004-2009. The SPP identified a number of industries that had the highest incidence and prevalence of work-related stress and were defined as high priority and subject to proactive inspections. As far as I am aware, I have not seen nor heard of proactive inspections related to work-related stress in high-risk industries. Unsurprisingly, these industries are still, 15 years later, the industries with the highest levels of work-related stress and continue to increase.

Under Section Three of the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999 an employer (including managers) are legally responsible for completing a risk assessment and acting on it to reduce work-related stress. The HSE have not been doing enough to actively enforce this, if they were proactively going in to workplaces and inspecting as per their Topic Inspection Pack, we might see some changes.

Morally, preventing a psychological injury caused by the workplace is the right thing to do, but the legal responsibility is there too. The HSE shouldn’t have to enforce this to keep people mentally well, but it looks like this is the route that they will have go down soon. Don’t wait till your company ends up in the court room, act now, the solution is simple.

To hear more about work-place stress and Our Mind’s Work’s solutions for your workplace, contact Emily.Pearson@ourmindswork.com