Health researcher Dr Ian Fletcher from Lancaster University was the keynote speaker at a “Time to Talk About Wellbeing at Work” conference hosted by the mental health charity Lancashire Mind.
The conference supports Time To Change’s national campaign ‘Time to Talk Day’ which aims to tackle stigma and discrimination around mental health in the workplace.
Approximately 50 businesses from across Lancashire and the North West attended the event which was dedicated to sharing best practice to improve employee mental health and business performance.
Dr Fletcher from the Division of Health Research at Lancaster University specialises in Workplace Mental Health and Psychology Safety.
He said: “Businesses and organisations need to do more than say they take mental wellbeing seriously. They need to actually practice what they preach and provide a safe environment where employees can talk honestly and openly about their mental health without fear of being stigmatised or penalised, and that often takes a culture change for organisations.
“Conferences and events like this one are extremely important in sharing practical tools and showing organisations it can be done and how to do it. The economic argument for taking employee mental wellbeing seriously is as strong as the social one, and often appeals to organisations from both the private and public sectors.”
A recent report from Deloitte found that poor mental health costs UK employers up to £45 billion each year. On average, for every £1 spent on supporting their employees’ mental health, employers get £5 back on their investment in reduced absenteeism and staff turnover.
The research also looked at how employers can tackle the problem, finding that it pays to support employees’ mental health. Greater openness in discussing mental health at work, organisation-wide culture change and education were shown to all play a part.
Tommy McIlravey CEO at Lancashire Mind said: “This is the third annual conference Lancashire Mind has hosted and it’s always great to see the varied businesses that are taking mental wellbeing seriously within their workforce. We had small businesses with under 20 employees to large organisations like BAE Systems attend.
“Learning from other employers about their experience of supporting their workforce and meeting a range of organisations who can provide support and assistance can give employers the confidence to make the change in their own organisations, no matter their size.”
Conference attendee Heath Brandwood from Blackburn with Darwen Council said: ”Understanding what other organisations have in place, what’s working and what’s not has been extremely useful. I was unsure as to what to expect but it’s been really inspiring hearing some of the speakers and I’ll be taking a lot of practical tips away with me as well as making some really useful connections.”
Karen Arrowsmith, training lead at Lancashire Mind, said: “There has been a positive shift towards improving wellbeing in the workplace in recent years, however many companies are slow to implement initiatives.
“Hearing from others about how they’ve tackled issues in their organisations often gives employers the confidence to put their own initiatives in place – and that’s exactly what we aim to do with events like this conference. From the feedback we’ve received it’s been a success!”