That Feel-Good Factor: Improving Wellbeing in the Workplace.
Image credits: Total Shape
With the October 2019 launch of the Mental Health at Work Commitment, the move to normalise and improve wellbeing in the workplace took a major step forward.
With prominent UK businesses, mental health charities and non-governmental organisations joining forces, the programme marks the largest and most widespread initiative of its kind; committed to improving the standards of mental health care at a national level. The success is already being felt far and wide.
As reported by Mental health charity Mind, businesses committing to the programme must adhere to 6 ‘standards’ (https://www.mentalhealthatwork.org.uk/commitment/). Outlining a commitment to improving wellness, the standards encourage organisations to prioritise mental health in the workplace and promote an open culture of communication, transparency and accountability.
Whilst no doubt setting in motion positive change, there is evidence that significant progress was already being made. From meditation, mindfulness and yoga, to comprehensive counselling packages, support for mental wellbeing in 2020 is becoming mainstream.
Recent figures reveal a significant increase in the number of new jobs offering mental health support. According to the jobs site indeed.co.uk., nearly one in every 200 jobs advertised in January provided such support as a benefit. Just five years ago the figure was one in every 5,000.
Emma Mamo of the charity Mind said: “in the workplace the conversation about mental health was lagging behind but in the last couple of years, potentially accelerated by the Heads Together campaigns, spearheaded by the young royals, the conversation has really been pushed along.”
Stress, anxiety and depression caused 12.8 million lost working days in the UK last year. According to a report by Deloitte, poor mental health costs employers up to £45 billion a year in Britain alone, with that cost increasing by 16% since 2016. ‘Presenteeism’, where employees attend work but are too unwell to be productive, has been identified as a major driving force behind the data.
But even in the world of business, it’s important to recognise that the cost of mental ill-health is not merely a financial issue. The human cost behind the economics are more alarming. Mind reveal that 39% of employees in the UK have experienced poor mental health, with work being a direct contributing factor. A staggering 300,000 people lose their jobs each year in the UK because of long term mental health problems.
The energy giant E.On UK recently increased investment in staff wellbeing, and last year won a gold award in the Workplace Wellbeing Index. Wellbeing Engagement Manager, Darea Flanagan, says mental health is part of the “organisational culture”, with E.On positioning “wellbeing warriors” in every department to support staff. Amongst the positive trends observed is that staff who use the programme now take significantly less time off.
Health Assured, which provide employee assistance programmes for companies, said it was often contracted by organisations with high absence rates due to mental health. They claim that companies with access to the programme observed an average 45% decrease in absences.
Paul Farmer, CEO of Mind (https://thriveglobal.com/stories/mental-health-in-the-workplace-4/), says: “It’s great to see so many employers take proactive steps towards creating mentally healthy workplaces.”
From employees and employers to profit and productivity, being proactive on wellbeing in the workplace has significant benefits. Engagement should be a major priority for UK businesses, and it’s now more available than ever before. In normalising a discussion around mental health and tackling the stigma, more people than ever are set to receive the support they need.