Almost half of us will experience a mental health issue in our lifetime for which work is often a key contributing factor. New research has found that people managers have seen an increase in employee mental health issues over the last 12 months. 

That rise is despite the fact that only 12% of workers say they’ve approached their bosses about mental health struggles, hinting towards the true scale of the problem being far larger than individual organisations realise. 

For Mental Health Awareness Week 2023, we’re going to take a look at what the latest research indicates about the state of our collective mental health at work, and why it matters so much on both an individual and macro-economic level. 

The mental health support gap 

One of the key issues facing organisations is the chasm that exists between the number of employees requiring mental health support, and the extent to which organisations are currently able to help. 

The survey found that 94% of businesses say they’re available to support any staff member that was struggling with their mental health. But despite noticing a rise in the rate at which mental health was cited as a reason for taking a sick day, only one in 10 firms offer mental health days to employees. 

Interestingly, whilst just 12% of staff would approach their manager about mental health struggles, an even smaller percentage (10%) of managers said they would feel comfortable discussing their own mental health. 

This data shines a light on the support gap that exists when it comes to mental health in the workplace. Organisations on the whole, feel that they’re ready to help but often lack the HR protocols or advertised internal schemes to do so. 

Worse still is management’s openness (or lack thereof) to discuss their own mental health challenges. If people leaders are closed off to these conversations, it stands to reason that they’ll need to be prompting these discussions with direct reports if they spot a potential problem. 

This is one of the reasons why some businesses, including we here at Phase 3, have invested in training certain team members to become mental health first aiders whose peers can book a confidential meeting with them when needed. 

Healthy employees = healthy workplaces

The cost of inaction on mental health for individual workers and workplaces is severe. 

Recent data from business leaders has shown that 40% have seen revenue decrease due to poor mental health, diminished output and a fall in profitability. 

As well as falling revenue, poor mental health at work puts strains on relationships, leads to more errors, can damage the reputation of an employer and cause a flurry of resignations.

Conversely, workplaces that focus on the complete wellbeing of their people experience more creativity, better collaboration and more profitable business outcomes. 

And a focus on employee health is now a direct recruitment factor too, with 60% of employees surveyed stating that wellness benefits will factor into their job selection process. That figure rises to 80% for millennial workers! 

Healthy workplaces = a thriving economy 

The cost of the mental health crisis within UK organisations is estimated to be costing the economy billions. 

Research from McKinsey found that the potential value of wellbeing provision was anywhere between £4-12,000 per employee. In fact, investment in wellbeing initiatives delivers one of the highest ROIs of any HR initiative. 

Reducing presenteeism and improving productivity alone could lead to an £85bn uptick in economic activity, whilst boosting retention could deliver up to a £24bn dividend. 

Many organisations are starting to grasp the benefits that an enhanced focus on wellbeing can deliver at a business level. Analysis from Socially Recruited found that there’s been a 310% rise in the number of job adverts mentioning wellness subsidies, whilst firms offering employee counselling services have almost doubled in the last year alone.

Four-day work weeks, hot HR news over the last 24 months, has risen 137% over the same period.

Improving staff wellbeing & retention through your HR team

HR has a critical role to play in the strategic support and promotion of better staff wellbeing, and the HR systems used every day can be instrumental in supporting those efforts too. 

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