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Workers' mental health warning

22nd October 2008

Government advisers have warned that the UK needs a major rethink over the mental health of workers with the current economic uncertainty.

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It comes after 450 experts assessed the potential challenges for continued wellbeing from the next two decades.

The Foresight group says more flexible working is necessary in order to maintain a work-life balance as the prospect of recession, debt and competition from abroad take their toll.

But while work-related absenteeism already costs business around £750m each year there are new fears over "presenteeism."

This is a phenomenon which could cost the UK £900m a year and is where people are at work but are not being productive.

The Foresight Report author Professor Cary Cooper was concerned that British workers already work longer hours than their European counterparts and many did not feel they could go sick when they were stressed.

The document recommends workers can fend off mental illness if they: connect with the people around them; exercise; take notice of their surroundings; keep learning; and give and be nice, either to a friend or a stranger.

Professor Cooper said: "We want more opportunities to request more flexible working arrangements. This is a business issue, it's not a soft issue. People who work flexibly can have more job satisfaction, be healthier and more productive."

The report was welcomed by John Denham, Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills while the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health said stigma was another hurdle to overcome with one person in six experiencing depression or anxiety in any year.

 

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