Wellbeing at work & the role for mediation
In 2017 the spotlight continues to shine on the issue of stress in the workplace which is continuing to rise. Work-related stress, depression or anxiety is defined as a harmful reaction people have to undue pressures and demands placed on them at work.
According to a report last year, the total number of working days lost due to this condition in 2015/16 was 11.7 million days. This equated to an average of 23.9 days lost per case. Stress accounted for 37% of all work related ill health cases and 45% of all working days lost due to ill health. (Work related Stress, Anxiety and Depression Statistics in Great Britain 2016, HSE November 2016)
These are serious numbers. There have been many responses- from acknowledging that wellbeing in the workplace is beneficial; a continued appreciation that management skills are vital; to looking at the workplace culture and how policy and communication practices fuel productive or unproductive working atmospheres.
In the same month ACAS produced a report on The Management of Mental Health at Work (November 2016, Dr Maria Hudson, Essex Business School, for ACAS) and whilst the author looked widely at how organisations and businesses need to recognise and support employees with mental illness there was little recognition of the fact that work is the cause of many illnesses or relapses, and therefore no recommendations of what should be done.
One response to this issue is so often to look towards affirming or redefining the grievance procedure. This is often the first advice from employment law and HR specialists. However simple and straightforward and fair a grievance procedure can be, it always feels like a serious formal business. Putting an issue or complaint in writing, and responding in writing makes people guarded and careful. A quickly arranged mediation meeting can offer a better solution in many cases. Mediators can get people listening and communicating around the whole issue – towards some solutions which may not always seem possible. Large organisations have trained mediators on their staff. A small or medium sized employer can use an external mediation service which can always respond quickly and manage a discrete and independent meeting. It is not thought about nearly enough, and often far too late when a conflict has become very entrenched. Awareness however is on the increase, and we hope this continues.