Taking care of business – mental health in financial services

 Taking Care of Business

While it’s an inherently personal battle, the effects of mental illness aren’t limited to our personal lives. And in financial services, two out of three people have experienced mental health issues as a result of work, or where work was a related factor.

So the chances are at least one person on your team is living with mental illness right now, which is likely to be connected to work, but it’s even more likely that this will never be discussed.

According to ONS data, 15.4 million working days are lost each year as a result of stress, depression and anxiety, but 95% of employees who call in sick cite a reason other than workplace stress for their absence.

For many people, the stigma of mental illness can be as disabling as the illness itself, and remains a significant barrier to breaking their silence when they might be struggling.

But the reality is mental health is just as important as our physical health, and like our physical health, mental health affects us all. It’s time to talk about it.


Investing in Employee Mental Health

Last year in the largest ever study of its kind, The City Mental Health Alliance (CMHA) published its findings that mental illness costs City employers an estimated £100m a year, with employees in the Square Mile more likely to suffer from problems than workers in other sectors.

This works out at £2,000 per employee annually resulting from absence, presenteeism, turnover, and other organisational costs such as compensation from litigation. This is higher than any other industry and is set to rise, with 62% of financial-sector firms reporting an increase in mental-health-related illness in the workplace last year.

The CMHA have since called for mental health to be recognised as a boardroom issue, essential to maximise business performance, critical to managing business risk and vital to safeguarding organisations’ people responsibilities.

But the good news is that investing in employee mental wellbeing pays off.

The London School of Economics estimates that for every £1 spent on mental health at work, the return is £9. And providing support at earlier, preventative stages of the employee journey may deliver an even better average return on investment.


Mental Health as an Asset

What’s more, if organisations can offer the adjustments and support required, they can not only help their workforce to thrive, but make themselves an employer of choice for an even wider pool of candidates.

A recent study found that financial services candidates were 83% more likely to apply to employers who are open about its commitment to mental health. But although mental health is high on the agenda for new jobseekers, 76% said that they didn’t have any information about any mental health or wellbeing support from prospective employers.

Organisations need to be the ones to start the conversation; candidates are understandably nervous about raising any issues themselves. Whilst millennials are far more open about mental health than their predecessors, stigma still has a significant negative impact on ambitious job seeking students and graduates.

64% of students and graduates believe disclosing a past or current mental health issue will hinder their chances of securing a first job in financial, legal and professional services; and 62% are concerned about the impact a career in these sectors will have on their mental health.

As a result, businesses need to think about how they are talking about mental health if they are going to secure the strong millennial talent that is a driving force of the future. Within the next two years, 50% of the UK workforce is expected to be made up of Millennials. It will be 75% by 2030.


Realising the Wellbeing Dividend

In the case of employee wellbeing, doing the right thing for your people is also doing the right thing for your business. And organisations taking bold, innovative action to foster good mental health at work are reaping the benefits, through improved staff recruitment and retention.

It’s a given that when recruiting, the aim should always be to hire the most suitable person for the job; the person with the skills, qualities and experience needed for the role.

But organisations are more likely to find the most suitable person if their recruitment processes are designed to attract a wide range of talent. And give all candidates, including those with a long-term health condition (or concerns that the sector has the potential to trigger them), the assurance that wellbeing is a business priority.

Company leaders have the power to change their organisation’s attitude and support system around mental health for the better — and at least one of your employees is waiting for you to realise it.