Mental Health and the City of London

by Jasvir Singh

Posted: 10 Oct 2018

Working in the City of London is certainly not a decision to be taken lightly. Graduates often face a culture shock on making the transition from university to employment in the Square Mile. The financial industry in particular is known for being stressful and for demanding long working hours, with employees in some investment banks working in excess of 80 hours each week. The effect that this can have on the long term mental health of workers is immense, potentially creating a challenging and at times toxic environment for ambitious professionals who want to prove themselves: showing that they are the hardest working individuals in their respective departments, regardless of whatever health problems they may suffer as a result.

While mental health awareness has developed greatly within society over the last few years, many employers have been left lagging behind when it comes to how best to support colleagues within the work place. Recent research has shown that 73% of employees in the banking and financial services industries are looking for better physical and mental wellbeing support in the workplace. A compelling case for change, but it's not an easy change to make. City-based industries must tackle the issue head-on.

Mental health first aid is one of the ways in which such needs can be met. Preventative measures and early intervention are crucial, and require people in the workplace who are both trained to notice the signs and symptoms of mental illness and confident enough to act promptly to offer support directly, as well as guiding colleagues to the appropriate available resources and services.

Some industries have already recognised the advantages of having trained first aiders who are able to provide mental health support. For example, the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) has recently launched a £500,000 fund with the aim of training 2,500 workplace mental health first aiders by 2020 to help improve the mental health and wellbeing of the British construction industry. According to Geeta Nathan, Head of Economic Analysis at CITB, the construction sector "lost 400,000 working days due to stress, anxiety or depression" in 2016/7, which is "the equivalent of losing 1,600 full time workers each year".

It's clear that early intervention of this nature doesn't just benefit employees. It's also a cost effective way for employers to maintain productivity in the workplace and reduce the number of sick days taken by workers. By providing an ethical working environment which cares about the mental well-being of employees, it ensures that workers feel that they are being looked after by their employers, while at the same time improving performance levels, staff loyalty and retention. The City-based industries would do well to follow in the footsteps of the construction industry when it comes to putting the mental health of employees first. It will help workers and businesses alike, and they could even improve their bottom line in the process. 

About this author

Jasvir Singh OBE is the Co-Chair of the Faiths Forum for London, Founding Chair of City Sikhs and a regular contributor on BBC Radio 4's Thought for the Day. He is also an Associate of St Paul's Institute.

Disclaimer

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of St Paul's Institute or St Paul's Cathedral.