Speaking to the British Safety Council, Professor Dame Carol Black, a leading expert and a passionate campaigner promoting good mental health in the workplace, urged small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) owners and managers to get on board with the mental health agenda.
“One in four employees in the UK have mental health problems,” revealed Black. “Their symptoms include stress, anxiety and depression, which affect their own performance and wellbeing, as well as that of other workers. These are the key reasons why SMEs should start treating mental health issues as a priority.”
Her practical advice has been recorded by the British Safety Council in a short film, Mental Health & SMEs.”
“Mental health issues affect small companies to a much greater extent than larger enterprises. Due to their size and fewer resources, SMEs cannot afford to have employees not working to their full capacity,” warns Black.
She said the signs that things are not well in a company are poor productivity and employee engagement, as well as various symptoms of stress, which express themselves in growing propensity to take sick leave, increased turnover and presentism.
Black suggests practical steps which every company, regardless of size and budget, can undertake to introduce a culture that promotes good mental health.
“You have to train your managers in people management skills and add to this a mental health component,” said Black. “Then they will be able to recognize the signs when an employee becomes less well. This approach should be complemented by training at a peer-to-peer level. Mental health first aid training will enable staff to provide support for their colleagues.”
The cost is minimal, she said, though she admitted it takes time to develop. “It will lead to better staff engagement and productivity, benefiting both employees, their companies and the wider society. However, it has to come from the top,” concluded Black.
The British Safety Council is addressing the challenges of mental health and, as a founder and supporter of the charity Mates in Mind, is focused on improving mental health of construction workers.