MarienPositive Group collaborates with organisations in the corporate, public, and educational sectors to help their leaders and staff manage pressure and adapt to change. The company saw a 40% increase in the number of people it worked with in 2016 compared to 2015. Last year, it delivered its services to approximately 9,000 individuals across the UK, Europe, Asia, US, and Australia. These individuals participated in programmes that were funded by their employers. Positive Group is now working with 18 medium to large sized businesses compared to 7 in 2015.

The company believes employers are becoming more focused on the wellbeing of their staff because of several factors including the link between psychological wellbeing and cognitive flexibility (the ability of individuals, teams and organisations to adapt and apply original cognitive strategies in new and challenging conditions), levels of trust, and collaboration at work. As well as the reduction in stigma about mental health issues, employees are more willing to admit to stress and anxiety.

According to Brian Marien (pictured), co-founder of Positive Group, “the stigma around stress and anxiety is coming down and employers are playing a big role here. But more needs to be done. Most companies are well aware of the business benefits of a healthy workforce but it is the more progressive, enlightened organisations that are taking active steps to reduce the incidence of mental health problems.”

Why is mental health at work so critical to foster?

According to Marien, an individual’s psychological health is the key performance indicator, having a powerful impact on factors such as:

  • How the human brain functions – psychological health has an important influence on the brain’s executive skills such as attentional focus, concentration, memory, decision-making, innovation and creativity.
  • Physical health – energy, motivation, and general wellbeing. Poor psychological health is powerfully correlated with a wide range of physical symptoms, disease, and illness.
  • Trust and collaboration – our mood state changes how we behave, communicate, and relate to others, strongly predicting levels of cooperation, collaboration, and team work.
  • Tolerance of uncertainty – resilience to periods of change is directly linked to our psychological wellbeing and mood state, while change and uncertainty are highly relevant in today’s workplace.
  • Professional behaviour and performance – poor psychological health links to professional error and risky behaviour. For example, doctors experiencing stress and burnout make more clinical errors, more prescribing errors, and experience more patient complaints.

With that in mind, what can employers do to improve the psychological health in their organisations? Marien offers three top tips:

Normalise stress and pressure. “Provide employees with access to evidenced knowledge and effective tools that help reduce the ‘risk factors’ and increase the ‘protective factors’ known to influence psychological health.”

Build leadership and employee knowledge. “Increasing self-awareness and a deeper understanding of psychological health and emotional literacy, improves psychological wellbeing. Leaders who walk the walk help to shift the culture, reduce stigma, and embed new adaptive patterns into the DNA of the organisation.”

Finally, “measure the impact of improved psychological health against presenteeism, absenteeism and KPIs to help keep it on the board room agenda.”