Business leaders in Suffolk have heard how levels of mental illness in the workplace have reached an all-time high as employees re-adjust to the post-Covid working environment.
The Larking Gowen Summer Business Breakfast was held on Tuesday, at Milsoms Kesgrave Hall, near Ipswich. Guest speaker, occupational health specialist, Hilary Horton, told guests that many employees were still "in Covid mode" and were struggling to adjust to returning to the workplace.
"The World Health Organisation has predicted that by 2030 depression will be the leading cause of disease burden globally. This has been compounded by Covid and will have a huge impact on employers," she said.
She went on to explain that, while workers should take some of the burden of responsibility for their own wellbeing, employers must create an atmosphere of trust and integrity where employees feel psychologically safe.
"A lot of people need help and care coming out of the pandemic. It’s made them question their role at work and their life more generally. I ask them, do you get something out of work? Are you valued and respected? Are you having a purposeful day?"
She said many of the questions she asks are about the individual's attitude towards their job, sleep patterns and general health.
"Foster a situation of wellness in the office. Create an atmosphere of appreciation. You've got to make your employees feel welcome and make the workplace fun. You've also got to look after yourself as a leader," she added.
Hilary began her career, at the age of 18, as a nurse in the NHS, and worked up the healthcare career ladder to become a matron. From there, she spent six years with the prison service, working at Holloway Prison, in London. After joining the RAF, initially as a reserve officer, she was called up as a regular and served in the Iraq War in 2002 as a Flight Lieutenant Nursing Officer, later gaining promotion to Squadron Leader.
In 2011, Hilary founded Enspirita, in Lowestsoft, where she is Clinical Service Director. Enspirita, is a top UK workplace health and wellbeing provider, specialising in health promotion, physical and psychological health, motivational speaking and complex care management.
Ian Fitch, Partner at Larking Gowen, said, "Hilary is one of the most widely experienced professionals in her field, and she brought the whole subject of occupational health into sharp perspective. As we emerge from the pandemic, looking after ourselves and others around us is as important for life as it is in running a business. It was a fascinating and timely presentation which gave us all a lot to think about.”