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Why tackling mental health and wellbeing helps businesses prosper

02 May 2018
Illustration of a hand helping workers up a productivity slope

Mental health is one of the greatest causes of sickness absence in the UK – yet for every £1 invested in Wellbeing, there is a potential to generate a return of between £1.50 and £9. So, ensuring employees are mentally thriving ultimately enables businesses to thrive too.

With the UK facing a much bigger mental health challenge than originally thought, six months ago Prime Minister Theresa May commissioned a report: ‘Thriving at Work’. The report makes recommendations to Government with the overarching vision that in the next ten years, all organisations will address and prevent mental ill health caused by or worsened by work.

This independent review showed the harsh realities that:

  • The UK is facing a significant mental health challenge at work
  • 300,000 people with a long term mental health problem lose their jobs each year
  • 15% of people at work have symptoms of an existing mental health condition
  • The UK has 15% lower production levels than other G7 countries due to mental health.

The review recommends all companies should implement six core standards, which are:

  1. To produce, implement and communicate a mental health at work plan
  2. To develop mental health awareness among employees
  3. To encourage open conversations about mental health and the support available when employees are struggling
  4. To provide employees with good working conditions and ensure they have a healthy work life balance and opportunities for development
  5. To promote effective people management through line managers and supervisors
  6. To routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing.

However, whilst this sounds practical in nature, busy directors, line managers or even HR departments often find it hard knowing where to start. Or what practical advice to provide.

In my experience, I believe the training of line managers is the best possible place to start, as these people are the gateway of support for your company. Yet this is isn’t always the first priority and sadly, research shows that less than a quarter of line managers receive any training in mental health.

Yet, a manager can make sure employees play a key part in the company’s vision and help the team develop the resilience needed to cope with the challenges that frequently occur. 

Organisational resilience can only be developed when there is a culture of honesty and transparency - where there is an environment where everyone feels appreciated and significant to the corporate vision. Personal resilience should be encouraged by giving employees the opportunity to develop strategies to cope with stress before it becomes a problem – which may be through training.

It’s also well known that employee satisfaction is linked to the 3 R’s – Responsibility, Recognition and Reward:

  • Responsibility - Most employees feel more valued when they are given a degree of responsibility in their role, particularly when they have input into their own work patterns
  • Recognition – Employees like recognition for the part their role plays in the overall vision of the organisation, with appreciation given on a regular basis
  • Reward - Is important and yearly reviews of salary should acknowledge hard work and commitment. Due to financial restraints, this is not always possible but consideration should be given to how individuals can be rewarded.

For smaller companies, setting up a Wellbeing Plan and implementing the six core standards may sound daunting. But there are a lot of resources and support available to businesses. And I have seen, first-hand how small yet vital changes made in the workplace go on to make a big difference and help employees to prosper.

About Sandra Flanagan MCMI

Sandra Flanagan is Director of Wellbeing at Prosper Wellbeing and is passionate about improving mental wellbeing in the workplace.

With 15 years of experience working as a Senior Manager and Deputy CEO at Norwich Mind, Norfolk’s leading mental health charity, Sandra works with companies to create more resilient workforces and improve workplace wellbeing through providing workshops for employees, middle-managers, and directors for managing work-related stress and building personal resilience

Mental health in the workplace

The IoD is committed to raising awareness of mental health issues in the workplace, with a particular focus on opening up the conversation for small and medium-sized businesses. We have created a hub packed full of helpful advice, best practice and useful resources, as well as shared experiences from business leaders.

Visit our mental health in the workplace hub

Get involved in the conversation  or use the hashtag

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