Mental well-being should be a matter for every company''s board of directors, just as physical well-being and equality are currently considered, according to UK''s Mental Health Foundation (MHF).
The claim comes in a new report from the MHF, "Burnt Out or Burning Bright?"
The research study into the effects of stress in the workplace also found that junior employees suffer more with workplace stress than senior executives. "Burnt Out or Burning Bright?" was compiled following discussions with a number of directors, senior executives and human resource managers at companies including Credit Suisse First Boston, Volvo Car UK Limited and Pearson plc.
This was supplemented by a review of current literature on stress at work.
"We were pleasantly surprised at just how willing companies were to discuss the issue of stress," said Ruth Lesirge, chief executive with the foundation. "The business world knows just how crucial this issue is, and the ways in which it may have a major impact on business. But their key requirement now is knowing where to start and how to tackle the problem of undue workplace stress."
The report found that most companies did not view stress as a mental health problem, as only "serious" diagnosable conditions were seen as mental health problems whereas it was recognized that stress is experienced at some point by everybody.
The senior executives questioned recognized that, for a variety of reasons, employees, particularly more junior employees, felt they had to hide their stress and were perhaps unable to recognize stress which could become unhealthy. At the same time, there was a recognition that senior executives were more aware of the need to manage their own stress. Senior executives manage stress by going to the gym, and re better able to take appropriate action, according to the study.
However, newer companies appeared to be more aware of the need to manage stress, perhaps because of their focus on people and knowledge-based services and so recognizing employees as an investment to be looked after.
A variety of approaches were mentioned including external counseling, shiatsu, a quiet room and discount sporting facilities.
Recommendations from the companies involved in the research included:
- Stress should not be sidelined as part of human resources but a national campaign should be led by a mainstream champion of industry.
- All companies employing more than 100 people should offer some kind of independent employee counseling service.
by Virginia Sutcliffe