- Psychology & the public
- What we do
- Member networks
- Careers, education & training
Mental health and the workplace
'I'm the Neil Diamond of occupational psychology' Cary Cooper (Lancaster University) quipped after being introduced as so famous that even former BPS Practitioner of the Year award-winner Anna Koczwara's mother knows who he is. Jokes aside, Cooper used his keynote to highlight the rising financial and human cost of stress and mental ill health in the workplace, a topic he investigated in-depth in 2008 for the UK government's Foresight programme (see tinyurl.com/6c2fdt and News, December 2008).
Cooper said the scale of the problem was made apparent by a Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health report published in 2007, which estimated that mental ill health in the workplace was costing UK employers £25.9 billion a year. Cooper said this is caused less by absenteeism and more by 'presenteeism' - people turning up for work and performing sub-optimally because of stress. Given the current financial climate, Cooper thinks this will only get worse because people will be reluctant to take time off work for fear of being laid off.
A major cause of stress at work is poor management. 'Management style is fundamental to a person's health and well-being,' Cooper said. 'In fact, on the door of an office building it should say "Your boss is potentially dangerous to your health" because the evidence is clear that bad management can be harmful... and it can be the opposite when done well, it can motivate and energise.' The answer, Cooper argued, is better management training and, even more important, better selection - hiring managers not just for their business nous but also for their interpersonal skills.
Another priority is to do something about over-long work hours. Not including our comparatively generous holiday time, Cooper said here in the UK we now work longer hours Monday to Friday than any other country in the world. Flexible working is the answer and plenty of research has shown its benefits.
How can employers be persuaded to take workplace mental health seriously? 'You have to show them it hits the bottom line,' Cooper said. 'The evidence from major studies in the area is that it does. We need to get this message out from the journals, which the public don't see, into the public arena - that's our job.'
- Most Read
- Most Comments
- Register of Applied Psychology Practice Supervisors
- Raising awareness of adult autism