A Royal College of Psychiatrists report published in March 2018 found that nearly 1 in 7 people suffer from mental health problems as a result of their work. That represents a staggering 4.5 million people in Britain’s workplaces today. And the worrying statistics don’t stop there.
According to AAT research conducted in April, 90% of professionals within the accountancy sector, or working in accountancy roles, say that work has stressed them out – at least on occasions. This is higher than the 85% of employees across all other industries who report this. Nearly one in two (43%) workers in accountancy have seen their stress levels rise to the point where they have had to take time off.
Stress was the theme for last year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (this year the focus for the week, taking place from Monday 13 to Sunday 19 May, is body image) and while mental illness can take a variety of forms, overwhelming stress can certainly impact upon our mental and physical health.
One way in which businesses can help their employees feel happier, take away stress, and even help conquer mental health issues is by helping them to train and upskill.
The UK currently has a skills ceiling of a staggering £11,926 – the gap between those who receive regular upskilling opportunities and those who do not – but money should not be the only motivating factor for employees to constantly seek retraining. Upskilling can lead them to feel more secure in their jobs, improve their morale and wellbeing, and thus make them more loyal to their current workplace.
Increasing skills and confidence can support employees to do their job better
Hannah Carrington is a Youth Support Worker for KIM Inspire, a non-profit organisation that provides professional mental health support in the community. KIM, who are headquartered in Holywell, Flintshire and operate in both Flintshire and Wrexham, do this through running services for men, women and young people to help ease the strain on local health services.
“An individual may have any reason for having mental health issues, be it work-related or not,” says Hannah. “The important thing is that they have a safe environment where they can talk honestly and openly about what is going on.”
And Hannah is convinced that managers can do a great deal to help – not only to listen to their employee, but also to recognise how they might be able to upskill for the benefit of their health and wellbeing.
“If the employee is able to move forward in a positive way, they can be a lot happier in work and feel like they can contribute more,” she adds.
“For example, their self-esteem may not be great – and for that, training could be massive. Increasing their skills and confidence will enable them to do their current job better, make them feel like they know exactly what they are trying to achieve and why, and feel more valuable in what they do as a result.”
Recent research conducted by Linkedin supports Hannah’s convictions. They found that employees who are offered opportunities to learn at work are 47% less likely to be stressed, 39% more likely to feel productive and successful, and 21% more likely to feel confident and happy.
And Hannah is better placed than most to know the impact that gaining new skills and improving on existing ones can have on lives. She was formerly a client of KIM Inspire, suffering from mental health problems herself, and the charity helped turn her life around to the point that she is now working for them on a part-time basis.
“I also started my foundation certificate in accounting with AAT last year, studying via distance learning,” she adds.
“My previous results from exams have been really good, and I only have one exam left to complete that qualification. We will see after that where those new skills will take me.”
“I definitely feel that I am a success story for KIM Inspire. I got to a point where my mental health issues improved, and as a result I felt I could do more myself.”
AAT is running a series on business skills in order to support employers and finance teams. For more on how AAT can help train and upskill both finance and non-finance staff, visit AAT Train Your Staff or visit #AATPowerUp on social media.
About Olivia Hill
Olivia Hill is Chief HR Officer at AAT, the UK’s leading qualification and membership body for vocational accountants.