How businesses can support employee mental health

In light of World Mental Health Day on 10th October, we look at the importance of mental health awareness in the workplace and what businesses can do to provide employees with the support they need.

According to the Labour Force Survey, 12.8 million working days were lost in the UK in the period 2018-19 due to work-related stress, depression and anxiety. Not only do these figures show how widespread the issue of employee mental health is but they also underline the cost to businesses both in lost productivity and sick pay.

The pandemic has further aggravated mental health issues for many people. Financial concerns and worries about job security have been a major source of anxiety while home working has come at a price as employees struggle with productivity, loneliness and the sense of feeling disconnected from the team.

It is crucial for both employers and employees that companies address the issue head on and look at meaningful ways to reduce stress and promote mental wellbeing. From a business standpoint, it’s worth it: analysis from Deloitte shows that for every £1 invested in mental health in the workplace, employers can receive up to £5 back depending on the intervention.

In a joint report between AJ Products and ukactive Tackling Sedentary Behaviour in the Workforce, we looked at what businesses could do to support employee mental health.

How to improve mental health at work

  1. Prioritise mental health in the workplace by developing and delivering a systematic programme of delivery. Organisations should produce, implement and communicate a mental-health-at-work-plan, which draws from best practice and represents views of employees across the organisation.
  2. Be proactive in ensuring workplace and home office design as well as organisation culture drive positive mental health outcomes. Workplace conditions should be of a standard to minimise the risk from any triggers for stress and mental health problems. Risks could include:

    1. Long hours and no breaks
    2. Unrealistic deadlines
    3. Lone working
    4. Poor managerial support
    5. Working environment temperature and noise levels

    Remote working can make it difficult to monitor these risks. Consider how you can communicate with your employees more regularly to ensure that they do have the ability to take breaks, work collaboratively with others and get the appropriate support from their manager.
  3. Promote an open culture around mental health. Organisations can support this through inductions and training, running internal communications campaigns and recruiting mental health wellbeing champions.

  4. Increase organisational confidence and capability. Organisations should educate staff to have effective conversations about mental health and signpost resources that provide support.

  5. Provide mental health tools and support. Organisations should provide tailored in-house mental health support and signpost clinical help. This support might include:

    1. Access to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
    2. Counselling through Access to Work
    3. Occupational Health
    4. Employee Assistance Programmes and other tailored mental health and wellbeing support
  6. Increase transparency and accountability through internal and external reporting. Organisations should identify and track key measures for internal and external reporting, including the organisation’s annual report and accounts.

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