Dr Ashley Weinberg, Senior Lecturer at the University of Salford and co-author of the report said:
“A large part of how people define who they are is by what they do. Work can be a key part of our social identity and good for our health. Evidence has shown that people who are employed have lower rates of psychological health problems. However, work is not a universally positive experience.
“Poorly designed jobs, work that is not well organised and challenging work environments can trigger or exacerbate mental health conditions. For some people with physical or mental health conditions or disabilities, a lack of the right support from employers can make finding and keeping a meaningful job difficult, while for many people who are unemployed, navigating the current welfare system to find work, claim benefits, or seek suitable support can be an extremely negative experience.”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) more than a quarter of the European adult population has experienced at least one mental disorder in the past year, e.g. depression or anxiety. While these rates are relatively stable, absences from the workplace because of mental illness have been increasing steadily over the past decades. Mental disorders have a significant impact not only on the individual but also on society, with significant economic consequences.
The report offers recommendations in three key areas, these include:
1. Supporting people into appropriate work
The use of sanctions in the welfare system should be suspended pending an independent review into the link between their use and their impact on the mental health and wellbeing of claimants. The government should commit to undertaking an end to end review of its approach to the Work Capability Assessment process in order to enable the culture change needed to make it beneficial.
2. Creating a psychologically healthy workplace
The government should incentivise employers to introduce evidence-based interventions that promote a psychologically healthy workforce.
3. Supporting neurodiverse people in the workplace
Neurodiversity typically encompasses a range of conditions that affect cognitive functions such as thinking, attention, memory, and impulse control. Cognitive difficulties can vary from mild everyday challenges to longer-term conditions such as: ADHD, dyslexia, and Tourette Syndrome. Employers should proceed with the presumption that a minimum of 10 per cent of employees are likely to have a neurodiverse condition affecting executive functions.
Dr Ashley Weinberg continued:
“Successive UK governments have attempted to address issues around work, health, and disability, but this has yet to achieve real traction. ‘Psychology at Work’ emphasises ways to make work more attractive, rather than make unemployment even more punitive. It also provides the evidence that improving staff mental physical and mental wellbeing not only reduces sickness but also positively impacts on a company’s performance.”
‘Psychology at Work: Improving Wellbeing and Productivity in the Workplace’ was launched during the BPS All-Parliamentary Group for Psychology’s ‘Healthy Workplaces’ event hosted by the APPG Chair Dr Lisa Cameron MP on the 14 November in the Thames Pavilion, Houses of Parliament. This report was co-authored by Dr Ashley Weinberg and Nancy Doyle and edited by Kathryn Scott (Director of Policy and Communications) and Dr Lisa Morrison Coulthard CPsychol AFBPsS (Acting Policy Director).
Download your copy of 'Psychology at work: Improving wellbeing and productivity in the workplace'