Mental health: IoD calls for ‘a little more conversation’

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Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry at Heads Together mental health event

Today marks the launch of a new IoD campaign to tackle mental health issues in the workplace, backed by HRH The Duke of Cambridge

The UK’s oldest business representative body today calls on government to work with employers to “start a conversation” on mental health in the workplace. In its new paper, A little more conversation, the IoD reports that large companies have adapted quickly to increase awareness of mental health and offer support to staff, but smaller, more stretched businesses do not feel they have the resources to do so.

The IoD is calling on government to target both SMEs and larger businesses with guidance on mental health and how to talk about it, and on all companies to institute formal mental health policies and integrate awareness into line management training.

In the paper, based on surveys of IoD members and citing OECD statistics that suggest poor mental health costs the UK some five per cent of GDP, the business group argues that mental health is a business issue on a par with physical health and safety, and that increasing awareness across the business landscape could play a key role in addressing Britain’s “productivity puzzle”.

The results of the survey reveal that

  • 54% of IoD members have been approached by staff suffering mental ill health
  • 98% of business leaders say good mental health is important to the performance of their organisation
  • 14% have a formal mental health policy in place and fewer than one in five offer line management training

The report follows the prime minister’s announcement of an independent review into mental health in the workplace, to be led by Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, and Lord Dennis Stevenson.

In A little more conversation, which will be launched at an event on Thursday, the IoD proposes that:

  • Large firms should consider giving a non-executive board member specific responsibility for ensuring mental health awareness and that training be integrated across businesses
  • Government should trial a training scheme for small business owners to help them develop mental health policies
  • The government should make greater efforts to communicate existing schemes, such as Time to Change, to a wider range of businesses

In a foreword to the report, HRH The Duke of Cambridge writes: “Catherine, Harry and I are spearheading the Heads Together campaign to change the conversation on mental health, as it is clear that mental ill health lies at the heart of some of our greatest social challenges.

“Britain’s employers have a major role to play in this. In recent decades, businesses have ensured their workplaces are safe and physically healthy, with many actively promoting and supporting healthy lifestyles among their staff. But we would like this approach to be broader; to support the mental as well as physical wellbeing of the 31 million people at work in Britain.

“Through Heads Together, we want to help change the conversation on mental health. I am delighted that organisations representing large numbers of businesses, such as the Institute of Directors, are starting these conversations and supporting their members, employees and the wider business community through it.”

Stephen Martin, director general at the IoD, said: “The time has come for mental health to get the recognition it deserves at work. Coming from a background in construction, I know the lengths companies go to protect the physical health of their staff, but their mental wellbeing has often not received enough attention. Prevention is always better than cure, so we need to ensure businesses are supported by government to create an environment where employees feel comfortable enough to talk about their problems at an early stage. The prime minister deserves credit for putting mental health so far up the agenda, and removing the stigma of mental health will require joint leadership from politicians, business leaders and practitioners.

“It can be hard for small businesses in particular, who don’t have large HR departments, to prepare for staff dealing with mental health problems. There are already many positive schemes out there that can help these companies, but awareness is still too low. Equipping business leaders with more mental health literacy could well contribute to a real uptick in Britain’s productivity . This is not just an issue of welfare, but of business and commerce too.”

Interested in finding out more? 

The IoD is committed to raising awareness of mental health issues in the workplace, with a particular focus on opening up the conversation for small-and medium-sized businesses. We have created a hub packed full of helpful advice, best practice and useful resources, as well as shared experiences from business leaders.

Visit our mental health in the workplace hub here and get involved in the conversationon Twitter #IoDMH

Click here to download a PDF of the report

The IoD’s hub on mental health

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