Mental ill health costs UK employers a staggering £34.9 billion each year, according to research by the UK’s Centre for Mental Health.
Savvy employers understand that a business performs better when staff are happy, motivated and healthy. While there has been a shift in understanding amongst UK employers about the importance of employee health and wellbeing, there are also still significant grounds for concern, and many are yet to make mental health and wellbeing an integral part of their business strategy.
What employees are saying
Despite the rising interest in workplace culture and employee wellbeing, WeThrive survey data suggests employers aren’t doing enough to minimise workplace stress. Free fruit, cycle to work schemes, lunchtime yoga sessions, massage and even pedicures are very much in vogue, but they don’t address the root causes of poor mental wellbeing.
Our data indicates many employees are suffering from work-based anxiety, with ‘free from worry’ scores consistently low. Significantly, employees report they don’t have the headspace to perform their jobs properly, lack resources, and feel they aren’t given adequate support by managers.
Mental health charity MIND report that 60% of employees say they would feel more motivated and more likely to recommend their organisation as a place to work if their employer took action to support mental wellbeing.
Why employers should actively support mental wellbeing
For many people, work is a major part of life and where we spend much of our time. Society depends on a healthy workforce and business productivity is reliant on healthy employees too. Given that one in four people suffers a mental health problem at any point, workplace stress could be a major contributor.
Matthew Fell, Chief UK Policy Director at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) says employers should be placing more emphasis on health and wellbeing. “People spend on average 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime, so businesses should prioritise and promote health & wellbeing in their workplaces. Companies perform better when their staff are happier, healthier and more engaged.”
Employers have a responsibility to look after their people, but a CBI survey reports that 71% of firms say they are finding it hard to take practical action because they are not clear on what works. The fact remains, managers don’t know how to deal with mental health issues and there is still a stigma amongst workers to talk openly about the problems they are experiencing.
Mental wellbeing at work significantly impacts employee engagement and performance. Workplace culture has a huge impact on mental health and significantly impacts people’s ability to perform well in their jobs. Better mental health support in the workplace can save businesses considerable money in terms of absenteeism and presenteeism.
Strengthen line manager capability
Management style is one of the top causes of stress at work, according to a Health and Well-being at Work Report published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in conjunction with Simply Health.
Line managers should play a pivotal role in promoting employee wellbeing, but less than half of CIPD’s survey respondents felt they belong to an organisation where managers are equipped to support the wellbeing of their staff.
While managers don’t need to be health experts, they do need to recognise the importance of health and wellbeing at work. Managers should be able to spot the warning signs of poor mental health, have the resources and skills to have difficult conversations, and be equipped to actively provide tailored support to help employees manage their workload without feeling stressed.