Poor mental health costs employers in the UK between £33 billion and £42 billion a year (Thriving at Work report, 2017). Mental health difficulties are also the biggest cause of sickness absence in this country (Health and Sickness Executive, 2018).

It really does pay to invest both time and resources in staff wellbeing and being positive about mental health at work.

There are many benefits to you in adopting a proactive and preventative approach to wellbeing in your workplace.

  • Increased staff commitment and productivity
    Staff who feel valued and listened to are more likely to be engaged in the goals of the organisation, work together positively and perform to their optimal level.
  • Better staff retention
    A workplace culture that fosters staff loyalty and high morale is likely to keep staff for longer and reduce recruitment costs.
  • Reduced sick leave and absenteeism
    Staff who feel their wellbeing needs are being met are less likely to take sick leave and are more likely to return from leave taken in a timely and sustainable way.
  • A more resilient workforce
    Building resilience can help people cope better with day-to-day stresses at work and problems at home. And putting the right mental health and wellbeing strategies in place can help to stop problems from escalating.
  • An enhanced reputation
    Investing in wellbeing in the workplace sends a powerful message about your values and ethics and can help you attract a high quality workforce.

Personal wellbeing and work are linked

Work plays a crucial part in most people’s lives and not just in providing a source of income. It can give us a sense of purpose and achievement and boost our self-esteem, as well as an opportunity to socialise and build friendships with our colleagues.

We often spend a substantial amount of our day working, so it’s inevitable that:

  • a workplace with high levels of stress and presenteeism (when someone feels they have to be at work but are not being fully productive) can affect someone’s mental health. This can lead to burnout and exhaustion
  • people experiencing mental ill health, or, major life changes or challenges, such as bereavementrelationship problemshaving a babydebt or a workplace restructure may struggle at work for periods of time

People experiencing mental health difficulties lose their jobs every year at around double the rate of those without a mental health problem. They also lose them at a much higher rate than those with a physical health condition (Thriving at Work report, 2017).

Working can sometimes have a negative effect on someone’s mental health but it can also have a very positive one as well. A supportive, inclusive workplace can help to prevent new mental health problems and support people struggling with their mental health to stay at work and thrive.

It’s every employer’s responsibility to provide a workplace where:

  • staff wellbeing is a priority in all areas of business
  • people experiencing mental health difficulties, major life events or juggling caring responsibilities can talk openly without fear of stigma
  • there’s good communication and an ‘open door policy’ and people know what support is available to them to help them stay well at work and how to access it
  • flexible working is offered where possible and having a work-life balance is encouraged
  • people know what is expected of them and have an understanding of their job roles and areas of responsibilities
  • a suitable organisational structure is in place and people feel their workloads are reasonable
  • people are given space for growth and development, so they feel able to make a meaningful contribution
  • the culture is inclusive and welcoming and people feel able to be themselves
  • there’s zero tolerance to bullying, harassment and other forms of discrimination

Cost of living crisis brings new challenges

It’s important to take care of our mental health and wellbeing during these difficult times. During the cost of living crisis staff may be feeling more stressed, worried or anxious and may need additional support with their mental health.

Staff may require support with new or more flexible ways of working, such as working different hours or having the option to work from home to save money on commuting.

Understanding the ways that employees may be affected by these changes can help to create a positive working environment and help staff manage these challenges. For example, promoting a positive work/life balance, finding the best way to stay in touch or supporting staff to take regular breaks.