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Sunday, 15 September

Practical Steps For Workplace Wellbeing

 Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

As a contribution to Mental Health Awareness Week, the PCS union has offered some practical to take to promote good mental health and are encouraging the contractors its members work for to follow suit.

Stress, depression or anxiety are the greatest cause of work absence in the UK according to the Health and Safety Executive, with an average of 25.8 days a year, compared to 7.1 days on average for 'injuries’, 14 days for musculoskeletal disorders or 19.8 days for other ill-health cases.

The government revealed in January 2018 that 26% of all sickness absence in the civil service was due to mental health conditions.

Civil servants took more than 300,000 days off over mental ill health in 2017. Most core government departments are losing thousands of days of work because of mental illness or stress.

 

Tools

PCS reps report that an increasing number of members’ cases they support are for mental health related work absence. Mental health awareness training is important for union reps – understanding the ‘signs’ and symptoms of stress that can trigger mental health conditions, gaining some knowledge about protections that apply and learning about sources of help to sign-post members toward are vital elements of the rep’s toolbox.

As a union however, we also need to take a more proactive, campaigning approach. The hard work of union reps in supporting individual members is valued and important, yet we don’t want just a ‘sticking plaster’. We need to move beyond simply fostering awareness, to fighting back.

 

Culture

Mental health problems are escalating in the workforce for systemic reasons – bullying, heavy workloads and a long-hours, presentism culture. Workers are much more likely to feel anxious or depressed in work if they feel isolated, under-valued and unsupported, where they feel under pressure to meet targets and maintain performance, regardless of their welfare.

If members are unhappy because they feel pressure to work over their contracted hours, if they are struggling to pay bills because of low pay, leaving them feeling desperate that they cannot cope, if their manager is also under pressure and bullying staff or the office is under threat of closure – all of these issues impact on our mental health. Organising around core trade union issues, building union strength to fight for improved conditions must be explicitly part of fighting for better mental health.

 

What you can do

Contact organising@pcs.org.uk if you want assistance with materials e.g. a powerpoint presentation for a workshop. Branches are also urged to contact their local Mind for resources – they may be able to send along a speaker to your workplace for instance.  

Obtain resources from PCS, TUC and other helpful trade union websites.

Make the issues more visible in your workplace by displaying leaflets and posters.

 

For union members and reps

Sign up for a mental health awareness course in your region, with a view to running further workshops in your branch for members.

PCS offers one or two day reps’ courses on mental health awareness - contact your regional office to find out upcoming dates.

Picture:  Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay.

Article written by PCS Writer

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