Psychological wellbeing remains a taboo topic in work settings globally

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) have called for concrete actions to address mental health concerns among the working population.


The organisations have joined up to release two new publications aiming to address the issue of mental health at work: WHO Guidelines on mental health at work and a derivative WHO/ILO policy brief. The guidelines on mental health at work are reinforced by practical strategies outlined in the policy brief.


The release of the publications follows research that estimated 12 billion workdays are lost annually as a result of depression and anxiety, costing the global economy nearly $1trn.


The WHO’s global guidelines recommend that organisations take action to tackle risks to mental health such as heavy workloads, negative behaviours and other factors that create distress at work.


The organisation also recommended training managers to prevent stressful work environments and respond to workers in distress.


The guidelines advise employers to incorporate better ways to accommodate the needs of workers with mental health conditions; propose interventions that support their return to work; and, for those with severe mental health conditions, provide interventions to ensure entry into paid employment.


In addition, the WHO’s latest World mental health report, published in June 2022, showed that 15 per cent of working-age adults have experienced a mental disorder.


The organisation argued that work amplified wider societal issues that negatively affect mental health, including discrimination and inequality, and bullying and psychological violence (also known as ‘mobbing’).


However, the WHO emphasised that, despite the negative consequences, discussing or disclosing mental health remains a taboo in work settings globally, as data from its Mental Health Atlas revealed that only 35 per cent of countries reported having national programmes for work-related mental health promotion and prevention.


Guy Ryder, director general of the ILO, said a safe and healthy working environment was critical. “We need to invest to build a culture of prevention around mental health at work, reshape the work environment to stop stigma and social exclusion, and ensure employees with mental health conditions feel protected and supported.”


Employee health and wellbeing: in numbers


This year’s CIPD and Simplyhealth Health and wellbeing at work report also revealed that…


  • Half (51 per cent) of organisations take a strategic approach to employee wellbeing, while a third (36 per cent) are ‘much more reactive than proactive’


  • As in previous years, mental health is the most common focus of wellbeing activity. Access to counselling services and employee assistance programmes remain the most common wellbeing benefits provided. Financial wellbeing remains the most neglected area


  • Nearly three in five (56 per cent) employers include health and wellbeing provision for working parents/carers of children, and just under half (49 per cent) for bereavement, to a large or moderate extent


  • The vast majority of organisations offer some form of health promotion benefit. Seven in 10 (71 per cent) are encouraging employees to take up vaccinations (for example, for Covid-19) through paid time off, and more than half (53 per cent) offer free flu vaccinations, at least for some groups of staff. Free eye tests are also commonly provided, as in previous years


  • Only half (52 per cent) of respondents believe their organisation is effective in tackling workplace stress or in identifying and managing the mental health risks arising from Covid-19 (48 per cent)


About P3 Business Care


P3 Business Care is a Community Interest Company and social enterprise operating across the UK. Supporting your business on a weekly basis we provide personal and proactive care to your employees working in partnership with the company. Our Business Partners visit your business developing trust & relationships so we can identify and address issues before they become crisis, absence, or staff turnover.  Read more about our services here

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