The importance of mental health and wellbeing support in the workplace

Posted in:
Posted by: JamesStone
Posted on: 25/09/2023

The world of work is changing, with employee engagement, flexible working, resilience, and talent management now common currency. Positively managing mental health underpins these approaches and can reap rewards in terms of staff morale, productivity, and loyalty (People Manager’s Guide to Mental Health, Sept 2018, CIPD)

In addition to the human costs of mental illness, the ‘economic costs to employers, directly to Government and to the economy as a whole are also far greater than we had anticipated’ (Thriving at Work, Stevenson and Farmer 2017). The latest Deloitte report records the cost of mental health to the UK economy is now between £53 – 56 billion a year (Mental Health and Employers. The case for investment – the pandemic and beyond, Deloitte 2022). The largest of the three categories of cost is presenteeism, but the overall increase in total costs is attributable to higher turnover, with more individuals saying they left their job in the previous year or intend to do so over the next 12 months, for mental health or wellbeing reasons.

Smart employers know that organisations are only as strong as their people – they depend on having a healthy and productive workforce. They also know that people perform better when they feel able to put everything into their job and when they are confident, motivated, and completely focused on doing that.

Good mental health underpins this. By positively managing and supporting employees’ mental wellbeing, employers can ensure that staff perform to their potential – and this allows the business to achieve peak performance.

Therefore, it is important to create a culture in every business that promotes positive mental health, helps prevent people from experiencing mental ill health and helps them better manage mental health problems.

The case for investing in wellbeing

Traditionally, when articulating the business case for managing people’s health, employers focused on quantifying the negative impact of ill health such as the cost of sickness absence. Recent thinking reflects a more positive business case, and growing evidence showing a positive link between the introduction of wellness programmes in the workplace

and improved engagement and performance levels. MIND report that for every £1 spent on mental health awareness raising and preventative measures, there is a £5.30 return!

The CIPD 2022 Health and wellbeing at work survey identified the top three benefits of employers increasing their focus on employee wellbeing:

· A healthier and more inclusive culture.

· Better work-life balance.

· Better employee morale and engagement.

Promoting and supporting employee wellbeing should be at the heart of your purpose to champion better work and working lives because an effective workplace wellbeing programme can deliver mutual benefit to people, organisations, economies, and communities. CIPD reports that healthy workplaces help people to flourish and reach their potential (Growing the health and wellbeing agenda). This means creating an environment that actively promotes a state of contentment, benefiting both employees and the organisation.

There’s now a much broader understanding and application of holistic health and wellbeing approaches in many workplaces. However, it’s also clear that there’s an implementation gap, with many organisations not yet embracing the health and wellbeing agenda to full effect.

Investing in employee wellbeing can lead to increased resilience, better employee engagement, reduced sickness absence and higher performance and productivity. However, wellbeing initiatives often fall short of their potential because they stand alone, isolated from the everyday business. To gain real benefit, employee wellbeing priorities must be integrated throughout an organisation, embedded in its culture, leadership, and people management.

The need for strong leadership and a positive, transparent, and clear organisational culture which values staff, is imperative for both employee engagement and creating a positive, mentally healthy workplace.

Employers need to take the first step by sending a signal that staff mental health is valued, and that people can feel confident that disclosure will lead to support, not discrimination. The cost of not acting is lower productivity, entrenched stigma, low retention, lost workdays, higher recruitment costs and increased conflict at work.

We’ve compiled a list of top tips for embedding mental health and wellbeing in your workplace.

1. Get Senior Management buy-in – if those at the top are not invested in this agenda, you are going to have a battle on your hands.

2. Consider your mission and values – are they reflective of a positive working environment?

3. Engage staff – consider a staff wellbeing survey to establish how your workforce are feeling. This will give you an idea of the key areas that need addressing and help you to create an action plan moving forward.

4. Develop an effective mental health and wellbeing strategy.

5. Train and equip all Managers – we often hear managers don’t feel confident starting conversations. It doesn’t need to be that way.

6. Weave mental health and wellbeing initiatives into the everyday – it should be the golden thread that runs through every organisation and be felt by all staff.

7. Revise your existing policies – do you live and breathe these?

8. Review methods of communication – how do your comms land? Are they accessible for everyone?

9. Consider recruiting Wellbeing Champions/Mental Health First Aiders and plan a schedule of activity and support.

If you’re interested in driving forward positive mental health and wellbeing in your organisation, we can support you. The Work Health is an online, membership platform dedicated to health and wellbeing. Membership provides you with a learning community full of tools and resources to help you embed good practice, online courses, events, a panel of experts in the wellbeing arena, and the latest news and research. It also offers the opportunity to work with us on a one-to-one, consultancy basis, to help you embed positive mental health and wellbeing within your organisation. There is also the opportunity to join the Mental Health and Productivity Pilot and receive fully-funded support to roll out key wellbeing initiatives in your organisation.

Get in touch with Kate Wood, MHPP and Work Health Hub Manager – or visit the Work Health Hub to register your organisation.

Share this post