>>Steve Macaulay: Workplaces aren’t always
healthy places to be; stress, lack of concentration, depression – these are signs that all isn’t
well. Now a lot of work has been done in the area of wellness at work and we are joined
in the studio today by Dr Noeleen Doherty. Now, Noeleen, what is the issue?>>Noeleen Doherty: Well, Steve, if you think
of the workplace as a microcosm of life and people spend a large amount of time working
there, then we are going to come across the range of issues in terms of wellness and mental
well-being that we would in the general population. If we think of the spectrum of mental health,
it goes from at one extreme, very serious, less common problems right through to the
mild to moderate types of issues such as depression and anxiety, which are now reasonably common,
through to the other end which is really the end where we are talking well-being, fulfilment
and individuals being able to lead a fulfilled life.>>Steve Macaulay: So, when we are dealing
with wellness at work, somewhere along that spectrum there are a lot of days lost through
illness and quite a high economic cost, isn’t there?>>Noeleen Doherty: Yes, there can be. We have
also got to remember that employers have a duty of care which is legislated for through
the health and safety act of 1974. And that indicates that employers have a duty of care
to ensure, as far as is reasonably possible, both the health and safety – mental and
physical – of their employees. And that really underpins the idea that if employees
are being cared for in the work environment, then productivity should also show positive
increases.>>Steve Macaulay: But let’s face it, at
the moment times are hard. Can employers really do these things?>>Noeleen Doherty: Yes, indeed times are hard
and in the current recession we have seen people under a lot of pressure and stress
at work, but to have a knee jerk reaction to the current situation is short term. The
longer term benefits of taking a more proactive approach are quite key.>>Steve Macaulay: So tell me some more about
this proactive approach; what do you recommend?>>Noeleen Doherty: A proactive approach is
really based on building a business case. We have lots of statistics available at the
moment to show what the downsides of stress, depression and anxiety in the workplace can
be. For example, a recent study by Mind indicated that a lot of people are worried about their
work situation, a lot of people are consulting their GP. About 28% of people who responded
to this survey indicated that they were working longer hours and only about 38%, I believe,
indicated that they felt their employers were doing enough to support them.>>Steve Macaulay: So what is enough? Describe
what needs to happen.>>Noeleen Doherty: In the workplace an organisation
first of all needs to recognise that this is a potential issue – and I think that
can be a difficulty because it can be somewhat of a taboo subject. Employees themselves,
because they’re maybe, especially at the moment, under pressure to keep their heads
down and work hard, might have some self denial about there being a problem for themselves.
Managers, on the other hand, as well can also find this a difficult subject to broach. Often
there is a lack of training for them and when you put these two situations together you
can almost have a collusion, a denial that there is an issue and that is not good business.>>Steve Macaulay: So give me some steps then
that managers need to take to address this issue.>>Noeleen Doherty: Recognising that there
is a potential issue is a key first step. Having tools and techniques in place so that
that the organisation can audit what is happening; so they can look at the cost to business of
absenteeism, sickness absence, early retirement through ill health, on that side of the equation
they can look at the figures to show what the costs to business are. They can also balance
that equation by looking at the other side to see what the costs of potential support
might look like, for example, health screening, interventions, employee assistance programmes.
And I think the organisation needs to have that balanced view – the potential costs
and also the benefits.>>Steve Macaulay: Give me some examples where
companies have been proactive and have been successful in this area.>>Noeleen Doherty: A lot of organisations
are now recognising the need to be proactive; the need to take steps towards encouraging
wellness at work. For example, Royal Mail institutes programmes of pro-active mental
wellbeing.>>Steve Macaulay: Boots, too, are another
organisation that has been successful and has got some benefits from this?>>Noeleen Doherty: Yes, indeed and the organisations
who are successful tend to take an approach which includes occupational health, GPs and
training and development for managers. So it is a combined approach that looks at not
just the individual, but the organisational climate and culture.>>Steve Macaulay: So if you were to leave
me with a message, what would it be?>>Noeleen Doherty: Looking after the well-being
of employees is not a luxury; it has a bottom line impact on business. And therefore it
is something that both individuals and managers should take very seriously.>>Steve Macaulay: Noeleen, that is a very
telling message; thank you very much.