Helping ensure banking has a stronger, more resilient workforce

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Every organisation stands on the strength of its people.

That’s why the mission of Bank Workers Charity (BWC) is to ensure the banking industry has a stronger, more resilient workforce. We do this by helping banks to refine their existing wellbeing strategies and by providing support to people working at all levels within the banking industry.

This duality of the work we do gives us a unique perspective on the wellbeing narrative – we view it from both the employer and employee point of view. Which is why we understand that organisation-wide approaches to wellbeing are so important.

A good place to start is mental health. In fact, one in four of us will experience some kind of mental health problem this year. That figure, supplied by the Mental Health Foundation, means that one quarter of employees are likely to be affected by a mental health issue within any 12-month period. Are employers ready to help them when it happens?

Mental health issues can affect anyone at any level within any industry: there is no stereotype.

Through the work we do we’ve found that employers can struggle when it comes to addressing their employees’ mental wellbeing. While many financial institutions do offer employee assistance programmes, these frequently target workers already experiencing severe stress or mental health problems.

This is partly because managers can find it difficult to recognise more subtle symptoms of mental health issues in their employees. But it’s also because employees may hesitate to disclose an issue for fear of being judged by their managers. What we’ve seen this result in is a lack of readiness on either side to deal with a problem until it escalates into a crisis situation and potential leave of absence.

And in the meantime, workers who are struggling are less productive and less engaged than their colleagues. Research published this week by the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, found that nearly a third of employers have seen an increase in this so-called ‘presenteeism’ in the last 12 months. And these employers are nearly twice as likely to report an increase in stress-related absence, and more than twice as likely to report an increase in mental health problems among their staff.

It’s clear that both organisations and their staff must be more proactive in dealing with mental health, but right now it looks like neither side feels equipped to start the conversation. So what can employers do to address these issues? And what’s stopping employees from divulging them? Ahead of the Good Day at Work Conversation, there are some practical steps employers can consider to ready themselves for more honest conversations around mental wellbeing in the workplace.

Open a dialogue with your employees

Research by mental health charity Mind found that only 45% of people who had a diagnosed mental health problem had disclosed it to their employer. Barclays’ recent ‘This is Me’ campaign took aim at this culture of silence by featuring employees talking frankly about their mental health issues. The campaign highlighted that mental health conditions shouldn’t define employees or their capabilities, and the bank used it to not only change perceptions, but to raise awareness of the support it offers its employees.

Avoid crises by championing early intervention

Do your line managers have the tools to recognise the symptoms of depression, stress or anxiety? Would they feel confident speaking with an employee about a mental health problem? An early-intervention approach driven by clued-in managers helps to avoid crisis situations. By helping employees seek assistance before situations escalate, employers can prevent greater distress and leaves of absence. Industry-specific charities like BWC can also help employees by providing the information, advice and expert support services they need.

Be flexible where possible

One thing we’ve noticed in our work is the huge impact that flexibility can have on wellbeing. Decisions made around flexi-time and working from home options can vastly improve the capabilities of an employee who’s struggling. The right support could be the difference between a long-term leave of absence and retaining a valuable, engaged employee.

Share the responsibility

What’s vital for implementing a real-world wellbeing programme is that employers share the responsibility for good mental health practices with their employees. Be clear that if your employees have non-work pressures affecting their wellbeing your company will provide support where possible. Then you can set the expectation that your employees accept responsibility to use these services as they need them. By reducing stigma and encouraging employees to reach out when they’re struggling, organisations can begin to have honest conversations about mental health in the workplace.

BWC and Robertson Cooper share the common goal of pursuing genuine culture change within the working environment. For this reason, we’re proud to sponsor the Good Day At Work Conversation 2015 which promises to be a thought-provoking look at the health of UK workplaces.

Bank Workers Charity is proud to sponsor the Good Day At Work Conversation, taking place at London’s Altitude venue on 3rd November.

Held in association with The Movember Foundation, the day promises an exciting combination of interactive, collaborative workshops, unique networking opportunities and internationally-acclaimed speakers, from Saatchi & Saatchi's Executive Chairman Kevin Roberts, to Beirut hostage-survivor John McCarthy CBE, to sports psychology consultant Damian Hughes.

You will have the opportunity to ask questions and debate the most pressing issues currently facing wellbeing practitioners with some of the most senior experts in the field.

Register now using code GDAWoffer2015 to receive a 40% discount from the delegate price.

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