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Nick Lindsay

Elemental CoSec

Director

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Respecting mental wellbeing

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If a colleague breaks a leg or badly sprains an arm, the plaster cast or strapping is a good indicator that some help or an adjustment of work expectations needs to be made. But what if a colleague is suffering from stress or depression, or is struggling due to the effects of the menopause? Their symptoms aren’t visible, but they need help just the same.

For far too long, mental challenges have either been swept under the carpet or treated as something shameful. A colleague vividly remembers being exhausted when working twelve-hour days for a company in the 1980s. Far from being sympathetic, the response from the company was that if they couldn’t cope then that was their failing and furthermore if they raised the subject again then disciplinary action would be taken against them.

We’d like to believe that in these more enlightened times such a response would be unthinkable, but would we be right? Research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in tandem with World Menopause Day [1] revealed that only a quarter of women who had had to take time off due to menopause symptoms revealed the real reason to their managers. And when you consider that 65% of women said the menopause left them less able to concentrate with 58% experiencing more stress, that inability to have an open discussion potentially leaves people feeling even more stressed and alone.

Supporting mental wellbeing

So what is the solution? Events such as World Menopause Day which too place on 18th October do help to raise the profile. So too do Government initiatives such as the programme announced on 10th October to provide employment advice to those who receive mental health support with a view to helping them to stay in work or to return to the job market quicker than they might otherwise be able to do. [2]

However, initiatives such as these are worth nothing unless organisations step up and embrace the idea that mental health should be put on a par with physical health. If you want an incentive, the Companies Act 2006 calls for directors to promote the success of the company whilst having regard to the interests of the company’s employees. So, to neglect the wellbeing of employees is to breach one of the fundamental duties of a director as set out in law.

But that’s not really the point. If executive teams only act because legislation tells them to then they are never going to be acting in the best interests of the company, its people, its shareholders, or the wider society. Just because you can’t see that someone has a problem, it doesn’t mean that they are OK. It’s time to respect and acknowledge the importance of mental wellbeing by creating a supportive environment which enables everyone to thrive.

[1] https://www.cipd.co.uk/about/media/press/menopause-at-work#gref

[2] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/122-million-employment-boost-for-people-receiving-mental-health-support

Author Profile Picture
Nick Lindsay

Director

Read more from Nick Lindsay
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