A step in the right direction...

I left the Wellbeing at Work Conference in Dubai last year with my head full of thoughts, inspiration and some frustration.

The majority of the presentations had been covering physical health, with corporate wellbeing  being discussed primarily as a method to reduce cost, improve physical health or as a way to ''look good''. Why had there been no discussion on mental health or maximization of potential and performance and why was there confusion around the ''ownership'' of wellbeing? Who is responsible? The organisation or the employees?

Fast forward to this year and I was pleased to see that the dialogue has started to shift.

It was more geared towards a holistic view of wellbeing at work. The speakers addressed stress, burnout and how to tackle real issues. Some companies, such as Hilton, outlined a clear strategy and plan, tailored to their different markets across the globe.

The presentations in the morning started to raise the very important, but rarely spoken about topic of mental health. 

Brian Heyworth, Global Head of Client Services, at HSBC did what I've not seen any leader in the Middle East do as of yet. He shared his experience of suffering from poor mental health throughout large parts of his career. He shared his story. This was refreshing and as I discussed with a conference participant later during the day, if you'd ask any CEO or C-suite leader today, they're likely to have had a stint of mental health issues at some point throughout their career. In today's environment it's almost impossible to get to the top without it.

The statistics paint a clear picture and call for more action

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Data from the UK charity Mind illustrates that close to 70% of employees have suffered from poor mental health whilst working for their current employer. One quarter are likely to feel comfortable talking to their manager about it and only 5% have formally disclosed their issues. About 40% of the respondents had incorporated mental health into their management training.

The impact is significant, both for individuals and for organisations

Respondents also indicated (and a large part of this is also being backed up by scientific studies) that their performance at work had been negatively impacted, indicating difficulties to concentrate, taking decisions, and increased levels of conflict with colleagues and reduced patience with clients or customers. Thus, poor mental health can have tangible negative impact, both on individuals and on organisations, yet many companies are not paying enough attention to the issue and many individuals are suffering in silence.  

Given the attention mental health has been given in the UK, both a governmental and wider societal level, it's probably a fair assumption to say that the numbers here in the UAE are likely to be worse than what's outlined in the report by Mind. Thus, there is a real need for employers to recognise mental health as a potential risk or issue, both to their employees and to their organisations.

As a company, we've started to see a positive trend towards addressing this, not just in the discussions at conferences, but also in the level of queries that we get from clients asking us to come and help them raise awareness and reduce levels of stress, anxiety and poor mental health.

We're keen to hear from you - have you started to address mental health in your organisation?