Investment in Mental Health and Wellbeing – It’s a no Brainer…
Whichever way you look at it, one thing we can all agree on is that the topic of mental health in the workplace isn’t going anywhere. Poor mental health still accounts for around half of all causes of absenteeism in workplaces across the globe, costing UK businesses £45bn alone. This represents a significant cost to business, so any investment in reducing this eye-watering number seems like the smart choice. Around one billion people across the world live with mental health issues, and someone dies from suicide every 40 seconds. For organisations whose people are their most powerful asset, ensuring they get the help they need makes complete sense. Doesn’t it?
The Impact of Covid
2020 has exacerbated an already far-reaching problem, creating more stress and uncertainty for workers across every industry. Working from home challenges, financial issues and the pain of losing loved ones has taken their toll. To compound this, research indicates that Covid-19 itself comes with its own mental health symptoms. A study published in The Lancet Psychiatry, found that even after taking into account underlying health influences like age, sex, ethnicity and existing health conditions, there was a 44 per cent greater risk of neurological and mental health issues following a Covid-19 diagnosis vs. flu. Anxiety disorders (occurring in 17% of patients) were most common, followed by mood disorders (14%), substance misuse disorders (7%), and insomnia (5%). In addition, the pandemic has disrupted mental health services within 93 per cent of countries across the world.
So surely this threat to employee productivity mean businesses should be chomping at the bit to find better ways of supporting their staff’s mental health?
The Problem with Productivity
The argument for investing in mental health in the workplaces has often come down to this bottom-line focus on productivity. Sick people can’t be as productive as healthy people. It seems simple enough. Tanmoy Goswami, correspondent, claims,
“Extractive capitalism has trained us to believe that there’s nothing wrong with this line of thinking. After all, businesses “do well by doing good” all the time. Except touting business outcomes for doing the right thing is the enemy of wide and sustained change. It might be effective when the objective is to improve something narrow and specific relatively quickly – say, addiction levels in employees. But if we want to commit to a vast, nebulous goal, such as building a mental health-friendly world sans hypocrisy, we must start throwing our weight behind real, sweeping cultural change.”
The burden of our complex responsibilities, particularly for parents has peaked over lockdown. Parents or carers trying to balance these things don’t require more yoga or mindfulness classes. They need systemic change to the way we structure work.
“More than two-thirds of women reported decreased confidence at work because of the pandemic, compared to less than a third of men (68 per cent and 31 per cent respectively). Women were also much more likely than men to report feeling lonely or isolated during the crisis (64 per cent and 36 per cent respectively).” Andy Bell, Deputy CEO, Centre of Mental Health.
6 Ways on What Can be Done to Really Progress Mental Health in the Workplace by Kathy Heath, Director and Co-Founder of Healthy Minds Club
1. Genuine work flexibility
– Employees need to be trusted to work in a way that delivers for the business but also affords them time to manage their other responsibilities. This doesn’t mean the odd late start or last-minute half day leave. This means putting the power of when and where to work in the hands of employees, all the time.
2.True gender inclusion and equality
– Organisations who still have gender imbalance around pay and benefits will always detriment workers’ mental health over any interventions they may offer
3. A rights-based approach to mental health
– Mental health is not a ‘nice to have’, it is an inalienable right and should be regarded as such by organisations.
4. Humanising scorecards
– Is your business measuring how many of your employees can afford to buy a home or have kids? How many of them spend more than half of their wage on accommodation? Is your business seeing these as measures of success?
5. Ending working poverty
– If a single one of your employees are working full-time hours and still living below the poverty line, your mental health benefits are meaningless. Trapping employees into cycles of poverty make poor mental health an inevitability.
6. Creating a strong wellbeing strategy to focus on prevention of mental health issues by doing 3 key things:
• Executive sponsorship & communication
Promoting and empowering mental health and wellbeing of the workforce and include within consistent internal comms processes
• Develop personalised resilience toolkits.
Provide a holistic education plan to empower leaders & managers to prevent mental health issues in their staff by building their own resilience toolkits (Find an outsourced provider delivered by Experts)
• Measure the wellbeing of the workforce
Through HR processes and external measurement options (surveys, apps)
The value of all of this? Kathy’s Conclusion
Many HR professionals find themselves unsure of where to look for services and how to justify the budgets. Deloitte’s 2020 survey revealed a return on investment of £5 for every £1 spent in 2020 pre pandemic, which had risen from £4 in 2017. From an investment perspective, this is a pretty significant return and one which companies can’t afford not to make.