Now that Mental Health Week has been and gone again for another year, it’s vital that employers keep the momentum going. Firstly, because they have a duty of care to their people. Secondly, because mental ill health issues and absences cost UK employers £56 billion a year.

All efforts to raise awareness, Mental Health Week included, are of course welcome. But the reality according to the CIPD is that over a third of companies still take a more reactive approach to implementing mental health support.  

We need proactive long-term strategies for helping people, not just short term interventions. Here is a five point strategy that can help achieve that objective…and it starts with taking a deeper dive into root causes.


  1. Understand the current impact of mental health on your organisation

Draw on a range of evidence to develop a well-rounded picture.  Employee data such as on sickness absence, presenteeism, staff turnover and employee performance provide a good indication of whether a problem exists but not why.

To understand the why, look for patterns across your data to identify whether a particular workplace demographic is impacted, such as those with care responsibilities, or those working at a certain salary level. Review staff surveys to gauge morale. If you have an EAP request a thematic summary of the reason’s employees are using this service. Speak with internal talent teams and external recruitment agencies to understand whether the organisation is perceived to value employee mental health.

Use this information to create a wellness strategy linked to your wider people strategy and to prioritise practical support.  Simply having a wellness strategy communicates to staff that you value their wellbeing.


  1. Think prevention first

Budget and resource can be wasted rolling out a programme of support across an organisation that doesn’t value good mental health within its culture and policies.  Review these to identify any ways in which the organisation unintentionally undermines employee mental health.  

This is especially true for hybrid workforces.  Mental health in now the top concern for 49% of hybrid workers.  While remote working can have a positive impact on mental health, it also creates a risk that employees will feel isolated, invisible or under pressure to be constantly available unless the organisation makes a conscious effort to address these issues.

Critically, equip leaders and managers to be approachable and confident about mental health. Often early intervention and support can prevent a concern from escalating into a more serious problem. Encourage leaders to model talking about their own mental health to help normalise conversations around mental health with staff. 


  1. Cover the full spectrum of mental health

Make sure any support offered nurtures good mental health as well as responds to poor mental health.  Provide resources to help individuals take responsibility for their own mental wellness.  Signpost employees to resources to help them spot and early warning signs of stress, anxiety or depression and strategies to counter these.

Ensure your support also provides help for employees experiencing mental distress.  Here managers can play a vital role to spot early warning signs, facilitate a conversation, make reasonable workplace adjustments, and develop an action plan to support the employee at work or to return to work.

If you don’t already offer an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), consider doing so. Line managers are not mental health professionals and cannot provide mental health advice. Equally some employees may feel uncomfortable talking to their line manager about deeply personal problems.  EAPs offer a confidential helpline to triage an employee’s problems and provide appropriate support specific to that problem.


  1. Communicate your support

Employees need to be reminded of the support on offer on a regular basis throughout the year.  Create a communication schedule to remind employees of the help available through team briefings, emails, town halls as well as wellness events.

If you have an employee recognition scheme, remind employees of the importance of giving and receiving appreciation.  Doing so creates a strong sense of connection and belonging among employees and boosts positivity. 


  1. Assess impact

Some employers regard their investment in employee mental wellbeing as a bottom-line cost. Remind leaders the significant positive impact it can have on business performance.  Deloitte found employers see a £5.30 return for every £1 they invest in employee wellness in terms of reduced absenteeism, presenteeism, and turnover.

Refer back to the programme objectives and measure progress against specific metrics as well as usage. Continually evaluate how well your program delivers on it.  

In addition to monitoring hard data, survey employees at frequent intervals throughout the year  about their perceptions of your wellness program. Ask staff whether they are aware of the support available, have they been accessing it, and do they find it effective.

Look at how many employees actively engage with the programme and which aspects are used the most  Are some elements not used or under-utilised, if yes, why?  Do they need to be improved or dropped?

Regularly review the collected data and make adjustments to the program as necessary to ensure ongoing effectiveness and meet the changing needs of your employees.