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16th December 2017

Thriving not just surviving at work

With the new year around the corner it’s important for organisations to reflect on the ‘Thriving at Work’ review published this year, and make a plan of action to address the UK mental health issue.


Mental health is something we all have, like physical health, but it is a subject that is rarely talked about, particularly in the workplace. We spend a significant proportion of our lives at work, so our working environment can have a huge impact, both positive and negative, on our mental health. Any individual may face poor mental health in their life, and with the prevalence of mental health problems increasing it is crucial, now more than ever, to address this issue.

At the beginning of 2017, the Prime Minister commissioned an independent review into how employers can better support employees with mental ill health or poor well-being. The review, ‘Thriving at Work’, conducted by Stevenson and Farmer, reports that the UK faces a significant mental health challenge at work. To give you an idea of the size of the problem, here are some figures from the report:

  • 300,000 people with long term mental health problems lose their jobs each year
  • The annual cost of poor mental health to employers is between £33 billion and £42 billion (attributed to presenteeism, sickness absence and staff turnover)
  • The overall cost to the economy sits around £74 billion to £99 billion per year

What does the report recommend?

These hard-hitting statistics are hard to ignore, so what can be done?

The report emphasises that individuals with mental health problems can, with the right support, still thrive at work. Stevenson and Farmer set out six evidence-based ‘mental health core standards’, which can be adopted across all workplaces at little or no cost:

  • Produce, implement and communicate a mental health at work plan
  • Develop mental health awareness among employees
  • Encourage open conversations about mental health and the support available when employees are struggling
  • Provide employees with good working conditions and ensure they have a healthy work life balance and opportunities for development
  • Promote effective people management through line managers and supervisors
  • Routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing

As well as the ‘mental health core standards’ Stevenson and Farmer report that ‘good work’ contributes positively to mental health. What they mean by ‘good work’ is, for example, employers providing good work-life balance, opportunities for progression and the absence of bullying and harassment. Recent events show that sexual and racist harassment has a negative impact on wellbeing. The review does highlight green shoots of good practice, but emphasises that there is much more to be done to remove the stigma and increase awareness and understanding of mental health in the workplace.

How can we help?

One of the visions set out in the ‘Thriving at work’ review is “every one of us will have the knowledge, tools and confidence, to understand and look after our own mental health and the mental health of those around us”. Employers play an important role in providing employees with an environment that supports this vision, and the standards set out above.

At Impact, we are passionate about helping organisations to flourish through releasing the full potential of their people. As evidence-based business psychologists our goal is to help organisations achieve ‘good work’ and we do this through a variety of ways. In particular, we offer an evidence-based diagnostic tool, the Organisational Behaviour Audit (OBA), which is designed to ‘take the temperature’ of your organisation. This anonymous online survey helps to build a picture of your organisation, capturing information on occurrences of and perceptions of challenging behaviours, such as work-related pressure, stress levels and harassment. A comprehensive report is created along with recommendations for positive action. The findings can then be explored further, and positive interventions designed to address any issues identified, these can involve cognitive behaviour coaching and group development workshops.

For individuals and organisations to thrive these are the issues we need to address and with the right support and guidance you will the see the positive impact.

The ‘mental health core standards’ set out by Stevenson and Farmer are a starting point for helping people thrive at work and as we look forward into the new year, it is important to reflect on these and make a plan for how you can address these at work. We can work with you and/or your organisation to identify any underlying issues in the workplace, which may be impacting on employees’ mental wellbeing, and help you to bring the ‘mental health core standards’ to life through bespoke interventions.

Talk to us to learn more about OBA and other tools and techniques we provide to help you understand and look after your own mental wellbeing and the mental wellbeing of those around you.

Read the full ‘Thriving at Work’ review here.