THE EMPLOYEE AND BUSINESS BENEFITS OF MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS IN THE WORKPLACE
We’re more stressed at work than ever before, and the impacts of that stress are probably having an impact on your organisation.
The Covid-19 pandemic led to a significant spike in mental health issues—something that had already been on the rise since 2010—and a massive 1.46 million people were referred to NHS England’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme in 2020/21.
Mental health awareness in the workplace has never been more important, and there are a number of employee and business benefits for organisations that take it seriously.
How employee mental health affects job performance
Many things can affect our mental health, from worrying about money to being in physically poor health.
However, while workplace stressors play a big part in mental health, even worries from our personal lives will affect our job performance.
So how do these mental health issues manifest themselves at work?
One of the biggest impacts is on employee productivity. A small amount of stress can actually be great for our productivity, helping us through difficult situations by increasing our speed of thought, but stress hormones quickly become debilitating, leaving us feeling drained.
Stress makes it harder for us to manage our time (particularly when we have a workload that’s too much) and leads to a lack of focus.
We’re less creative when under stress too. A study of university students found a ‘significant relationship’ between creativity and subjective emotional, psychological and social wellbeing.
Mental health issues are also a major driver of absenteeism. Stress, depression or anxiety amounted to the biggest cause of workplace absence in 2019/20, with sufferers taking an average of 21.6 days off.
The benefits of mental health awareness to your business
Mental health isn’t always obvious, but it’s likely a significant percentage of your workforce has experienced stress, anxiety, depression or other issues.
The Mental Health Foundation estimates as much as 12.1% of UK GDP (£225 billion) is added by workers who have experienced mental health issues.
But mental health awareness isn’t just something you should worry about because supporting employee wellbeing is the right thing to do—it also makes good business sense.
We’ve already mentioned how a reduction in productivity is one of the biggest impacts of poor mental health, so it follows that prioritising mental health at work increases it.
Research showed that FTSE 100 companies that prioritise employee mental wellbeing outperform the rest of the FTSE 100 by 10%.
Improved talent acquisition
Mental health awareness is on the rise, and working for an organisation that supports wellbeing is now a major priority for employees. This means that if your company has a reputation for supporting mental health, it’s going to show in your talent acquisition efforts.
A study conducted by Limeade found that nine out of ten employees would recommend their employer to a friend if they felt their mental health was supported.
The costs of mental health soon add up
We’ve already touched on how mental health issues increase absenteeism, but this is only one element that goes into the cost of workplace stress, with presenteeism and staff turnover contributing to an estimated £42 billion in direct costs to employers.
The figure was revealed as part of the UK government’s 2017 Thriving at Work review.
How can you boost employee mental health?
Mental health awareness can be a tricky subject to broach with employees, and as a result far too many organisations choose to do nothing about it.
However, there are a number of things you can do to boost mental health awareness in the workplace and support employee wellbeing.
Cultivate a supportive work environment
One of the best, and simplest, ways of supporting mental wellbeing is to create a culture where everyone feels like they can be open and honest with colleagues and management when they’re struggling.
This approach has to be led from the front, with leaders opening up about mental health and putting in place things like mental health awareness days and self-care days.
However, it’s also important to remember that some people will always struggle to be open with people they know, which is why implementing an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) is another effective measure.
An EAP will provide completely independent and, importantly, confidential mental health support and advice when your employees need it most. This might be around financial worries, depression or workplace conflicts. Talk to us about our EAP today.
Support physical wellbeing
There is a proven link between physical and mental wellbeing, so organisations that support a healthier lifestyle will also see improvements in the mental health of their workforce.
There are a number of ways you can do this.
Discounted gym memberships, cycle to work schemes and employee benefits that support physical wellbeing are all direct interventions, but there are also indirect things you can do too.
For example, if your employees are regularly required to work long hours their opportunities for exercise or recreational sports are reduced. It also means they’re less likely to have the time to make healthier food choices, while working long hours of course has a direct impact on mental health. You might think the amount of exercise an employee does in their spare time is completely down to them, but if their working life is impacting that, it’s down to the employer too.
Support financial wellbeing
Worrying about finances is one of the biggest drivers of stress for UK adults, and as an employer your responsibility to support financial wellbeing doesn’t begin and end with a competitive pay packet.
One in five workers said they’d value broader financial guidance, debt management and counselling if they were struggling with money worries, while there are a broad range of measures you can take to support employee financial wellbeing, including:
- Salary sacrifice schemes that help employees' money go further, with savings to be made on tech products, environmentally-friendly vehicles and the daily commute with travel season tickets. There’s a benefit for the employer too thanks to a reduced National Insurance bill.
- Employee benefits platform offering savings across a wide range of retailers, from luxury items to the weekly shop.
- A rewards and recognition platform that incentivises high performance while also supporting financial wellbeing with eVouchers, gift cards and prepaid recognition cards that employees can use on essentials or the things that make them happy.
Ready to help with employee mental health?
Supporting employee wellbeing and encouraging mental health awareness in the workplace is no small task, which is why it’s so important for organisations to work with a partner like Sodexo Engage.
We’ve been helping businesses support employee wellbeing for over 60 years, and in that time we’ve worked with organisations across a wide range of sectors and of all shapes and sizes.
Our award-winning solutions include:
- An Employee Assistance Programme that will connect your workforce with counsellors fully accredited by the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP).
- Our dedicated Financial Wellbeing Hub designed to support your people with the costs related to energy, fuel and food.
- A wide range of salary sacrifice schemes that can help your employees’ salaries go further, including tech deduct, annual leave purchase and travel season tickets.
Ready to take the next step towards becoming a more supportive organisation? Get in touch with the team here at Sodexo and one of our experts will explain how we can help.