Workplace Mental Health Screening

Whether you are a business owner or an employee, it may benefit you to learn about workplace mental health screenings.

With mental health becoming more of a pressing concern recently, these screenings are likely to become more common over the next few years.

So what is a workplace mental health screening? Why might mental health screenings be of use to employers, or even to employees?

We answer these questions (and more) below.

What is a workplace mental health screening?

A workplace mental health screening is, as the name suggests, a test for mental disorders which is organised through the workplace.

This test will often take the form of a questionnaire. It is likely to involve questions about your emotions, lifestyle, and general wellbeing.

The most common mental disorders which employers screen for are anxiety and depression.

If you are screened for anxiety and depression, and the screening suggests you may have one of these conditions, you may be offered a course of therapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy.

Why might an employer choose to do a workplace mental health screening?

Poor mental health leads to a huge loss of productivity, both in terms of employees missing work, and employees coming to work but doing less work than normal.

‘70 million workdays are lost each year due to mental health problems in the UK, costing employers approximately £2.4 billion per year.’ [1]

There is therefore a major financial incentive for companies to look after their employees’ mental health.

One of the best ways to do this is to try and open up channels of communication so that someone who is suffering from poor mental health feels able to admit that.

If every employee at a company gets a standard mental health screening, then some mental health problems may get picked up which otherwise would have flown under the radar.

This shouldn’t be an opportunity for employers to discriminate against employees with mental health problems.

Rather, it should be a chance for them to have open and honest conversations. Hopefully, these mental health screenings can lead to positive outcomes, such as further treatment for employees who are keen to improve their mental health.

In emotionally taxing occupations, and high-powered occupations which leave employees little free time, mental health problems can be difficult to navigate.

Employers need to help their employees to deal with these problems, rather than simply ignoring them.

What happens during a workplace mental health screening?

Although there may be some variation between different forms of workplace mental health screening, an average workplace mental health screening is likely to involve:

A questionnaire with various questions around mental health, focusing on anxiety, stress and depression.

An offer of therapy – normally cognitive behavioural therapy– to take place over 6 to 12 weeks, for those who need it.

The costs of such a workplace mental health screening are relatively low, at around £30 for the questionnaire, and £240 for the CBT. [2]

Are workplace mental health screenings cost-effective?

According to one study, yes. The study, by David McDaid, Derek King and Michael Parsonage, modelled a cohort of 500 white-collar workers.

In the model, the business paid for the costs of the screening and CBT (with the prices given above).

They estimated that around two-thirds of the employees would take up the offer of CBT. Even with conservative estimates of the number of workdays saved due to increased presenteeism, the study found that the workplace mental health screening paid for itself and more, with a significant cost-saving made over the course of two years. [3]

It is worth adding a few caveats, however. This is only a model, and there is still very little data around the effectiveness of mental health screenings from a business point of view.

Still, the results of this study suggest that mental health screenings may prove to be a savvy investment as well as something that benefits employees.

Final thoughts

Mental health screenings in the workplace can be beneficial both for employers and employees, especially if the screenings are followed by a course of CBT.

If you are a forward-thinking business owner, we would recommend exploring mental health screenings as an option for improving productivity and general wellbeing among your workforce.