5 Reasons You Should Be Prioritising Mental Health in the Workplace

There has long been a link between positive mental health and workplace experiences and behaviours. Although ethically there has always been an argument for wellbeing to be prioritised in the workplace, we know that it’s often statistical bottom line impact that drives organisational cultural evolution.

Since the beginning of 2020, there has been at least a 60% increase year on year on stress levels across every demographic, with the pandemic being cited as the top reason for negative wellbeing feelings, including depression, anxiety and loss of sleep (Employee wellbeing: the changing dynamics of financial health, Allan, Myers & Southern). And the latest study by The Workforce Institute at UKG shows that Managers have a huge impact on the mental health of their workforce, with 69% of people stating that their manager has more impact on their mental health than their therapist or their doctor (which is equal to the impact of their partner). This is a major issue.

A flexible, adaptable approach to employee wellbeing

Our personal and work lives have become more intrinsically connected than ever before, and there is a much higher priority on working in an environment that supports positive mental health and a better work-life balance. Our own research conducted throughout the year with senior leaders and HR teams across the housing sector correlates with other recent studies, which indicate that as the Great Work Migration has been taking place, organisations are by necessity pivoting their offer to reflect the demands for more flexibility, a more diverse and inclusive culture, and catering to an individual sense of purpose, in order to attract and retain the best employees (The Great Migration: A report on post-pandemic careers and the future of work).

If you haven’t yet placed a priority on mental health within your organisation, here are five reasons you need to catch up – and fast:

  1. Positive mental health reduces absences. According to the Mental Health Foundation, better mental health support in the workplace can save UK businesses up to £8 billion annually, with evidence suggesting that 12.7% of all sickness absence days in the UK can be attributed to mental health conditions (Mental health at work: statistics).
  2. You are likely to lose your top employees if you don’t have an effective mental health support strategy. Three quarters of respondents to a Mind Share Partners 2021 Survey on mental health at work said they faced a mental health issue in the last year, and half said they’ve left a previous role partly or completely due to mental health reasons.
  3. If you don’t look after your people, your people won’t look after you. It’s that simple. Even before the pandemic and the Great Migration, there was a strong correlation between mental health support and employee loyalty. This 2019 report from REC showed that pre-covid, nearly three in five (57%) people said that if their employer proactively supported their mental wellbeing, it would help them to feel more loyal, be more productive and take less time off work.
  4. Workplace wellbeing improves performance. A report from the Department for Business Innovation and Skills shows that prioritising mental health has a direct impact on productivity.
  5. It’s the right thing to do. The workplace and the socio-economic environment are evolving at high speed and becoming ever-more intertwined. The impact of continuous change and uncertainty across the macro-environment is forcing each of us to adapt, respond and do things differently (Shaping a brighter world of work, Zurich), in order to survive and thrive, and we each have separate challenges to contend with that require an individualised approach.

Understanding the drive for a more authentic and empathic workplace

The pandemic saw much of the traditional workplace façade stripped away as we contended with such complexities as conducting meetings and completing tasks from behind a computer screen at home, with the inevitable spectacles of helpful partners bursting into the room with cups of tea, and cat’s bottoms appearing as we attempted to hold a serious conversation with our stakeholders becoming somewhat of a comical norm (I hope I got that the right way around). In essence, we became more authentic, with our vulnerabilities and our humanity on show. And as we continue to adapt and respond to each new challenge, it looks, for the most part, as though we’d all quite like to keep this authentic, human side as we move towards yet another set of evolutionary workplace transformations.

Wellbeing in the workplace and mental health awareness are here to stay. So we either need to move with the times, or get left behind.

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