A new report from the British Psychological Society, Psychology at Work: Improving Wellbeing and Productivity in the Workplace examines issues around work, health, and disability and recommends ways that policy makers and employers can tackle poor employment practices using interventions that work with human behaviour, not against it. The report has been launched today, Tuesday 14th November, at the BPS All-Parliamentary Group for Psychology’s (APPG) ‘Healthy Workplaces’ event hosted by Dr Lisa Cameron MP in the Houses of Parliament. Psychology at Work: Improving Wellbeing and Productivity in the Workplace’ was co-authored by Dr Ashley Weinberg, CPsychol AFBPsS, and Nancy Doyle CPsychol AFBPsS.
Dr Ashley Weinberg said: “Poorly designed jobs, work that is not well organised and challenging work environments can trigger or exacerbate mental health conditions. For some people with physical or mental health conditions or disabilities, a lack of the right support from employers can make finding and keeping a meaningful job difficult, while for many people who are unemployed, navigating the current welfare system to find work, claim benefits, or seek suitable support can be an extremely negative experience.
“Our report offers solutions to many of these problems. It emphasises ways to make work more attractive, rather than make unemployment even more punitive. It details the evidence for improving employee mental physical and mental wellbeing that not only reduces sickness but also positively impacts on a company’s performance. We will work to influence policy makers, commissioners, practitioners and employers to apply relevant psychological theory, evidence and practice to design interventions that work for people and businesses.”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) more than a quarter of the European adult population has experienced at least one mental disorder in the past year, such as depression or anxiety. While these rates are relatively stable, absences from the workplace because of mental illness have been increasing steadily over the past decade. Mental disorders have a significant impact not only on the individual but also on society, with significant economic consequences.
Vicki Nash, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Mind, said: “In the last few years, we’ve seen more and more employers being proactive when it comes to tackling stress and supporting the mental wellbeing of their staff, including those with a diagnosed mental health problem. However, there is more to do and employers do need to recognise the different approaches they may need to adopt in how they address mental health in the workplace.
“We already know that 300,000 people with a long term mental health problem lose their jobs each year and this report provides yet more evidence that workplace mental health needs to be a priority for organisations across the country. Every employer has a responsibility to support employees with mental health problems and promote the mental wellbeing of their entire workforce.”
The report offers recommendations in three key areas and these include:
• Supporting people into appropriate work
• The government should commit to undertaking an end to end review of its approach to the Work Capability Assessment process in order to enable the culture change needed to make it beneficial.
• Creating a psychologically healthy workplace
• The government should incentivise employers to introduce evidence-based interventions that promote a psychologically healthy workforce.
• Supporting neurodiverse people in the workplace
• Neurodiversity typically encompasses a range of conditions that affect cognitive functions such as thinking, attention, memory, and impulse control. Cognitive difficulties can vary from mild everyday challenges to longer-term conditions such as: ADHD, dyslexia, and Tourette Syndrome. Employers should proceed with the presumption that a minimum of 10 per cent of employees are likely to have a neurodiverse condition affecting executive functions.
Dr Ashley Weinberg said: “Successive UK governments have attempted to address issues around work, health, and disability, but this has yet to achieve real traction. Our new report emphasises ways to make work more attractive, rather than make unemployment even more punitive. It also provides the evidence that improving staff mental physical and mental wellbeing not only reduces sickness but also positively impacts on a company’s performance.
By Mark Eltringham, as published in Workplace Insight on 15th November 2017