07/11/2014 05:42 GMT | Updated 06/01/2015 05:59 GMT

Why More and More Companies Are Taking Action on Stress

In the right amounts, pressure can help to sustain motivation, improve individual performance and drive results at work.

But when employees lack the support to manage and control excessive pressure, it can quickly escalate to unmanageable levels of stress. If left unaddressed, this can lead to longer term problems that are harder to reverse.

National Stress Awareness Day, which took place earlier this week, gives us a useful opportunity to reflect on where we are in the battle against employee stress.

Stress accounts for 40% of all work-related illnesses and has remained a major problem in the UK for years. The total number of working days lost due to stress, depression or anxiety was 11.3 million in 2013/14. The OECD estimates the cost of mental ill health to UK employers at £26bn each year.

These problems have largely been because of a culture of silence that surrounds mental health in the workplace.

In the past year, 4 in 10 UK employees have experienced stress, anxiety or depression and not told their employer, with more than a quarter of employees having taken a sick day saying it was for a physical problem when it was actually due to a mental health issue.

Yet despite these challenges there are now really encouraging signs that the landscape is beginning to change, as more and more businesses recognise the need to take action to improve support for mental health.

In April this year, Business in the Community launched a new campaign to end the culture of silence around mental health in the workplace. This has seen the formation of a dedicated Champions group, comprising of leading businesses committed to sharing best practice and encouraging other organisations to talk openly about mental health and share good practice on how more businesses can be inspired to take action and implement successful strategies that promote positive mental health.

In October, the insurer and pensions provider, and one of our champions Friends Life, held a landmark event on why open discussion about employee mental health must be a key boardroom issue for all responsible employers.

Progressive organisations are adopting proactive ways to build employee resilience based on the understanding that mental health is as important as physical health for wellbeing. Encouraging companies to celebrate their achievements and methods of success is another crucial step to help build momentum around this cause and inspire other businesses to implement change.

We know that many leading organisations have had great success in improving employee wellbeing and driving transparency through making mental health a strategic boardroom issue. The more organisations that share these strategies publically, the more businesses will be inspired to replicate models of success.

This week saw entries open for Business in the Community's Responsible Business Awards. In particular, the Bupa Employee Wellbeing Award category is one way that businesses can demonstrate their commitment to employee wellbeing, and where successful strategies can be showcased as positive examples for other organisations.

It is hoped that encouraging more businesses to share their stories of success will help to create an awareness that transparency around mental health is a sign of organisational strength, not weakness. It will help businesses to feel confident that they are not alone in dealing with these challenges, but are instead part of a growing responsible business movement.