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Mind control: Bosses call for open and frank discussion around mental health issues

Talking to Bupa UK's corporate director, Patrick Watt, for our "Mind Control" series unveils evidence of bosses hoping to eradicate a fear of speaking up about mental health issues.
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Much emphasis has been placed on the rise of mental health issues at work. However, employers aren’t sitting idly by. Instead, they’re hoping to tackle the biggest hurdle: getting people to talk about the subject.

“Once only thought about as a service received passively to prevent decline, now wellbeing is seen as a choice made actively to maximise the length and quality of our lives.”

It’s an excerpt from an article written by applied futurologist Tom Cheesewright. More particularly, it’s one of many penned nods to mental health in Bupa’s Wellbeing Edit – an annual publication fielding comment from experts in the effort of gauging the UK’s progress on the matter.

We were keen to find out what the company found off the back of it, and so asked Bupa UK’s corporate director, Patrick Watt, a few questions. Here’s what he had to say:

Do you believe mental health problems in the workplace are getting worse, or is the UK making headway?

The UK is making important strides in improving workplace mental health experiences and wellbeing support, which is reflected in our publication – the Wellbeing Edit.

The biggest change in recent years is the rise of business collaboration to address stigma as evidenced by the existence of the City Mental Health Alliance, alongside the growth of successful manager training programmes, workplace campaigns and high profile business leader engagement.

Our claims data shows that mental health treatment through work has increased 53 per cent over the last decade – and one of the drivers is employees feeling more comfortable to seek help.

What do you believe are the benefits of investing in employees’ health and wellbeing?

In the Wellbeing Edit – which captures expert views on workplace wellbeing – Dr Paul Litchfield OBE notes that proper investment should be a boardroom priority because it results in improved engagement, productivity, innovation and reduced absence.

This is compelling and is supported by research from the University of Warwick which found that happy employees work harder and are 12 per cent more productive, demonstrating the importance of investing in a health and wellbeing strategy for performance and business results.

If money was no object, what health and wellbeing perks/schemes would you advocate employers have in place?

The businesses we support vary in size and the success of a wellbeing strategy is not determined by budget, but instead by authentic leader engagement and an approach centered around their people and workplace needs.

Many of the wellbeing and mental health specific campaigns highlighted in the Wellbeing Edit have little or no cost but, if there is budget, it’s important to provide access to treatment through healthcare that facilitates self referral for conditions such as mental health with inclusive wellbeing support, engaging apps and preventive health education.

Our health assessments include ongoing coaching and technology tools and deliver fantastic behaviour change by supporting employees to take charge of their own health and wellbeing and achieve their goals. Our data shows that 60 per cent of people feel better able to manage stress as a result of the support they receive following their health assessment.

Discussions around mental health issues have increased in the last 12 months, Watt explains on the next page

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About Author

Shané Schutte

Shané Schutte is the deputy editor of Real Business, with a particular specialism in employment and business law, human resources, information technology and sales/marketing.

Real Business