mental health in the financial sector
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Coordinating a change in perspective on mental health in the financial sector

Over the past few years, headway has been made in the way UK businesses think about mental health in the workplace. The Time to Talk campaign has been instrumental in this respect, giving businesses a mechanism for removing stigma around mental health. Indeed, at Bank Workers Charity we have seen that most of the major UK banks have made mental health at work a strategic priority. This change in perspective has been supported by special interest organisations like Business in the Community (BITC) who are helping to move mental health up the business agenda. As part of Responsible Business Week, BITC’s Wellbeing Director Louise Aston talks about the organisation’s work and highlights some of the innovative ways businesses are approaching mental health in the financial sector:

Strong imperative for employers to take action on mental health

‘In the last few years, the financial sector has taken a hit on brand reputation and struggled to rebuild trust – not only with customers, but also with employees. This is an urgent issue that needs to be addressed, and tackling the stigma surrounding mental health in the sector is a key part of this.

‘Negative articles about entrenched long hour cultures, lack of work-life balance and the damaging effects these can have on employees’ mental health appear regularly in the press, suggesting there is a strong imperative for employers to take action.’

Adding mental health to top-level conversations, training and culture in the financial sector

We need conversations to be led from the top, with leaders talking openly about mental health to break the culture of silence that surrounds it.

‘There are initiatives that are raising the profile of mental health in the finance sector. For example, the City Mental Health Alliance brings together employers based in the Square Mile, particularly from the financial and banking sectors, and the Business Healthy initiative led by the Corporation of London also includes mental health aspects. All this suggests that the issue of good mental health at work is gaining traction in the City.

‘But there is also a key role for individual companies to play. We need conversations to be led from the top, with leaders talking openly about mental health, in the same way as physical health, to break the culture of silence that surrounds it. Line managers must be supported by training to spot early warning signs of poor mental health, to equip them to have difficult conversations and to signpost colleagues to sources of appropriate help.

‘Support for line managers also needs to be embedded into organisational culture for them to maintain their own wellbeing and in order for them to support others and set positive examples to their teams. And collaboration both within organisations and across sectors can bring huge benefits as employers and colleagues learn from each other.’

We need more employers to follow good mental health examples

‘Business in the Community wellbeing members American Express and Santander offer excellent examples of best practice for leading the way on mental health in the workplace, as does Barclays’ ‘This Is Me’ campaign. Now, we need more employers to follow their lead.

We are seeing the tide turn on mental health in many sectors, including finance, but there is still more work to be done.

‘We are seeing the tide turn on mental health in many sectors, including finance, but there is still more work to be done. It is clear that this is no longer just about the business case and the benefits of good mental health for employee productivity – employers also have a strong moral duty of care. By talking about mental health and putting it on a parity with physical health, employers will show that they take this issue seriously and value all their employees’ contributions to the organisation.’