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Urgent action needed to improve mental health of UK workers, says expert

A wellbeing expert is urging businesses to take action to protect the mental health of their employees

During Mental Health Awareness Week, Christopher Harvey, founder of executive wellbeing coaching company Harvey Sinclair has called for businesses to take urgent action to look after the mental health of their employees and for workplace wellbeing to be supported as much as diversity and inclusion have been by policies and government regulations.

Harvey says: “The case for change is now. The burnout economy is evident amongst today’s city workers. Things are only getting worse, with job cuts and increasing expectations to do more with less; stress levels are past breaking point – it’s a question of ‘when’ and not ‘if’ for most City workers. Whilst most businesses have implemented quit smoking and alcohol management programmes, they don’t tackle the true underlying issues going on in people’s heads. Using the comparison of Diversity & Inclusion, which has been proven to have not just a business case for change, the same should be applied to mental health.”

A study by Alexandra Michel, Professor of Management and Organisation at the University of California, has found that between 60% to 65% of banking sector workers in the UK and US aged 25 to 44 report some level of burnout. In Hong Kong, the same goes for 80% of banking employees. The research also revealed bankers tend to continue working despite exhaustion, stress, disorders and other health concerns. A large number of those in the study revealed they turn to both illegal and prescribed drugs to cope rather than talking about their mental health issues.

Harvey continues: “Anyone in management will tell you it often requires things to get so bad, even toxic, before any significant change occurs in the workplace. Addressing the burnout amongst our city’s elite wouldn’t be the first time something profound has been dismissed as shallow and frivolous. Looking at the analogy with diversity, the fact that the Sex Discrimination Act became legislation in 1975, followed by Race Relations, Disability Discrimination and Employment Equality for Religion and Sexual Orientation, shouldn’t legislation be in place to hold businesses accountable for the mental wellbeing of their workforce?”

Harvey is now calling for organisations to support mental wellbeing in the workplace, with mental health being the last taboo of modern business.

Harvey concludes: “As with all new schools of thought, it takes evangelists to create the followers and when the tipping point comes, the change it creates can be rather profound. You would hope that it won’t take a Martin Luther King or The Suffragettes to bring focus to what is really going on in 2017; we must stake a claim that something needs to be done soon whilst the subject matter of mental health taboo is so rife amongst our society.”

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