From 9th to 15th May it’s Mental Health Awareness Week – so it’s a great time to address the subject of wellbeing. We seem to be getting better at talking about the importance of good mental health, but we’re a little more hesitant when it comes to work. Do you know how well your staff are coping?
This year’s theme for Mental Health Awareness Week is loneliness. Not specifically an ailment in itself, however, the effects of loneliness and isolation can then have a negative impact on mental wellbeing. While this might be something we’d maybe associate with the older generation, the pandemic has taught us that it can affect anyone at any time – even our colleagues.
Those who live alone and work alone are particularly vulnerable to poor mental health. Without protection, economies and businesses would fail as they simply wouldn’t have the staff to cover them.
The number of lone workers in the UK is estimated to be between six and eight million out of a total workforce of around 31 million. This equates to a total of around 20% of the workforce working alone, with many working in retail, security and healthcare – the NHS alone employs up to 100,000 healthcare professionals (9% of its workforce) who work on their own every day.
Moving onto violence or the risk of violence in the workplace, another factor on workplace mental health – The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimates that there were 688,000 incidents of violence at work during 2019/20. We heard about how these figures escalated during the pandemic, affecting shop workers who were victim to an increase in cases of violence and wrote about it in a blog at the time.
Plus, a recent survey carried out by the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW) of 3,500 retail workers has revealed:
- 90% have experienced verbal abuse.
- 64% were threatened by a customer.
- 12% were assaulted.
We’ve heard from many organisations who train with us, about how lone workers fear that they are at greater risk of attack or violence because they become an easier target. As a result, they are more likely to suffer from stress and anxiety, which leads to them taking time off sick.
Women in particular have said they feel vulnerable, unable to defend themselves against someone else who is likely to become violent – and it’s one of many reasons why we have introduced our new PMVA training for individuals. It means lone workers can equip themselves with safe techniques and non-physical defense training that doesn’t rely on strength. Plus, it works with individuals in groups, so smaller organisations can benefit by sending on lone or other workers for refresher training more quickly without waiting for a larger group of people to have training all at the same time.
Jake Attard, Director at SBRT, said: “As trainers working with organisations in retail, healthcare and other professions, we’ve seen many times how lone workers feel exposed, which can lead to poor mental health and an increase in sick days.
“Employers have a duty of care by law to ensure the physical and mental wellbeing of their staff at all times. As it is Mental Health Awareness Week, now’s the time to be checking in with staff and offering them some refresher training to help address some of the wariness that might come with the parts of the job that forces them to face instances of violence and aggression.”