Return to Work: How to cut the cost of work-related stress

Mental health issues cost British businesses an average of £1,000 a year for every employee, researchers say.

Work-related stress, depression and anxiety accounted for 37% of work-related ill health and 45% of days lost, in 2015/16. In big numbers, that's about 15 million days of sickness absence, at a cost of £26 billion per year.

And it's not just us Brits. The Harvard School of Public Health predicts that by 2020, the developed world will lose more workdays to depression than heart disease.

Local action needed

So, it's a global problem. But it is one I think needs a local, business-by-business solution.

If you're a boss or an HR professional, you've probably asked yourself these questions when an employee is diagnosed with work-related stress:

  • Was their stress triggered by an appraisal?
  • Is the absence causing resentment among other staff?
  • Am I too busy to manage the situation with the sensitivity and compassion it deserves?
  • Where do I start in planning a phased return to work for my employee?

And it is about more than money.

Mental ill health can cause incalculable distress to those who have it- thought to be at least half a million UK workers. If not handled well, it can create ripples of frustration, worry and uncertainty among colleagues.

I believe we must tackle this distress, head on. This is one reason I began my coaching service, Confidence to Return and it is why I trained as a Mental Health First Aider.

What causes work-related stress and depression?

Your staff might face a range of worries and pressures that make them more vulnerable to mental health problems, according to Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reports.

These include:

  • workload, particularly tight deadlines
  • job insecurity
  • insensitive managers
  • having too little control over their work
  • too much pressure or responsibility
  • organisational changes at work
  • uncertainty about what their job entails.
What are the financial costs of work-related stress and depression?

As an employer, you need to meet the costs of;

  • reorganising work because an employee is absent
  • sickness payments
  • Employers' Liability Compulsory Insurance (ELCI)
  • administration and legal costs.
How can Mental Health First Aid help?

Recognising a problem exists and doing something about it is always wiser than hoping it will just go away.

In the same way as we learn physical first aid, Mental Health First Aid teaches you how to recognise the crucial warning signs of mental ill health. It is an educational course that teaches people how to identify, understand and help a person who may be developing a mental health issue.

MHFA courses teach people how to:

  • recognise the signs and symptoms of common mental health issues
  • provide help on a first aid basis
  • effectively guide someone towards the right support.
MHFA England has delivered courses to more than 150,000 people and the MHFA Client Experience Team delivers training packages directly to large organisations.

Qualified Mental Health First Aider

Coaches have an ethical obligation to care for their clients, regardless of who is paying for it, and as a Mental Health First Aider I can recognise and understand when clients need more help than I can offer.

We can offer clients a Patient Health Questionnaire 9 (PHQ-9), which is one of the ways GPs evaluate an individual's mental health. PHQ-9 can show how depressed a person is.

Coaches like me can use it to judge whether a client can be coached through their issues, or if they need to seek medical advice.

How can return to work coaching help?

Obviously, you can't always prevent mental ill health. But you can always help employees to return to work with confidence once they are well enough.

Coaching can help your employee return to work more successfully and more quickly

  • return to work coaching can ensure:
  • a planned and phased return
  • your employee feels confident about coming back
  • a way forward that meets everyone's needs.
At Confidence to Return we've got the experience, training and personal skills to support your employee back to work with confidence that will benefit you both.

Our Return to Work coaching programme is for employees who have had a prolonged absence from work, due to illness including work-related stress, bereavement or divorce.

As a forward-thinking employer or HR professional, you will benefit from our bespoke approach. We focus on your business needs and our approach is backed by coaching, counselling and mindfulness qualifications, among others.

Sandie Dennis, Confidence to Return

Returning to work is our business.

Discover how our coaching programmes can help you and your employees.

Whatever you're going through, you can call The Samaritans free any time, from any phone on 116 123.

Useful links

  • Mental Health First Aid England:mhfaengland.org
  • Ten reasons every employer should invest in mental health: downloadable PDF poster

  • Health and Safety Executive reports: www.hse.gov.uk/aboutus/reports/

  • Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Reports 2010/11 and 2015/16
  • 'Work related Stress, Anxiety and Depression Statistics in Great Britain 2016', 2016, HSE
  • 'Supplementary analysis of Costs to Britain data: using existing ill health appraisal values to estimate illustrative costs of work-related musculoskeletal disorders and stress', 2016, HSE
  • Labour Force Survey and THOR-GP 2012-2014, Office for National Statistics


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