by Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing, Mind
We are seeing a huge change in the way people work, but an integral part of this shift must be to make sure that people’s wellbeing is at the centre of the future of all business.
Faced with high levels of poor mental health in the workplace, it’s not surprising that more and more employers are increasingly making staff wellbeing a top priority.
Recent major research by Mind, as part of our Workplace Wellbeing Index, found that almost half (48 per cent) of all 44,000 employees surveyed said they had experienced a mental health problem in their current job.
The government-commissioned independent Thriving at Work review – published in October 2017 – looked at the extent of poor mental health and the effect of this on our workforce and our economy. The results were pretty glaring, with 300,000 people experiencing long-term health problems losing their job every year and 15 per cent of people having experience of a mental health problem.
The government accepted several of the review’s recommendations. The review outlines six mental health “core standards” which all employers should take on board, including developing mental health awareness, providing training for line managers and routinely monitoring mental health and wellbeing.
Of course, investing in staff wellbeing makes good business sense, but let’s face it, it’s got to be better for all of us in wider society too.
Employers should strive to create mentally healthy workplaces for all their employees, whether they are experiencing a mental health problem or not. Staff can experience stress or mental health problems regardless of their seniority or experience, so managers and senior staff who are responsible for looking after their employees must be able to access support too, particularly if they manage someone with a mental health problem. At Mind we have training courses and free resources, which can help managers feel equipped and as prepared as possible for line management.
The backing of senior leadership across the organisation is crucial to implement these standards, but all staff, regardless of their role or seniority, can make a positive contribution to the mental health and wellbeing of employees. It’s really important employers recognise the value of promoting workplace wellbeing. This is something that needs to come from the top too – getting buy-in from senior managers who should be role models for their employees helps show best practice. This is something we try hard to encourage at Mind. We feel that only then can openness become properly embedded into the culture of the organisation, rather than interventions being viewed as tokenistic.
Thankfully, workplaces are recognising the value of prioritising workplace wellbeing, and as a result, are seeing happier, more engaged and productive staff who are less likely to need to take time off sick. A recent Mind survey found 60 per cent of workers would feel more loyal, motivated and would be more likely to recommend their organisation to friends as a good place to work if their employer invested in measures which supported their wellbeing. Employers who invest in the mental health of their employees will save money in the long run, through improved staff morale and productivity – which, let’s face it, is something most managers would want. Indeed, analysis by Deloitte suggests employers would see a return on investment of between £1.50 and £9 for every £1 invested.
Training is just one thing employers should be offering staff as part of their commitment to creating and embedding a mentally healthy culture. Our physical and mental health are inextricably linked, and we believe that anything that promotes physical activity, such as subsidised gym membership or exercise classes, can also really benefit our wellbeing. We find other workplace wellbeing initiatives such as offering flexible working hours, employee assistance programmes (EAPs) and regular catch-ups with managers can all make a huge difference.
Finances can be a barrier to putting in place wellbeing initiatives, particularly for smaller employers – that’s why Mind, with support from The Royal Foundation, Heads Together and 11 other organisations, created – bringing together information, advice, resources and training for promoting good mental health at work.
It’s not just about people being supported in work, it is vital that our welfare and health services are able to support those who can no longer work due to their mental health. When people do fall ill, being able to access the support they need when they need it is crucial. Too often, this isn’t the case. For example, half of people in receipt of disability benefit need this support due to their mental health, but currently the benefits system punishes people by cutting their support when they’re not able to do what’s asked of them. This is counterintuitive, as it tailspins people further from their goals of getting back into paid work.
Most people with mental health problems want to work. People can and do make a valuable contribution, providing they’re properly supported.
Employers must commit to helping close the disability employment gap, recognise the value of recruiting and retaining a diverse and talented workforce, including those whose mental health may have prevented them from working previously.