Something is going wrong with mental health in the workplace. It’s clear that too often long-term employee wellbeing is seen as a ‘tick box’. Therefore, superficial solutions are being offered to much more complex issue.

Employers must start thinking about changing their culture to embed the right practices and procedures throughout their organisation.


The cost of poor mental health

In the workplace, poor mental health costs UK businesses £45bn each year. This is comprised of £7bn in absences, £27bn in presenteeism costs and £9bn in a company’s team turnover.

Data shows that employees are impacted by their wellbeing 27% of the time, meaning companies lose 17% productivity on average because of poor workplace wellbeing (Source: Lumien). This can equate to annual costs of £5,318.45 per employee (based on the median UK salary of £31,285).

Productivity loss isn’t the only cost, as further data shows half of Millennials and 75% of Gen-Z have left jobs due to mental health.


The ‘tick box’ trap

After the COVID-19 pandemic, many organisations are now supporting employee health and wellbeing through additional measures to support mental health and remote workers.

This will often involve training managers in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA), offering Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and providing subscriptions to mindfulness apps, for example. However, these actions can be reactive – in a response to an employee issue arising or an employee facing a mental health crisis.

This leads to a ‘tick box’ mentality, and certain activities can be carried out based on criteria from mental health certifications or regulations. As a result, employers can easily fall into the tick box trap – investing heavily into mental health support that isn’t aligned with what employees need or want. Often there are also no measures in place to check if measures are actually working.


A proactive approach

Supporting workplace wellbeing isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach, so it shouldn’t be treated as one. Proactive approaches are more challenging, but companies need to collect data from employees to understand what’s right for them. It’s a larger task, but it’s more effective, forward-thinking and progressive.

There has been some progress. In 2021, CIPD released a report noting the number of employees who thought their companies’ response to mental health was reactive has reduced by 27%. However, the number with a formal wellbeing strategy in place to support only increased from 44% to 50%.


A case for culture change

Deloitte’s wellbeing report states 1 in 4 employees fear a negative outcome of making mental health issues formal. The Mind Workplace Wellbeing Index highlights that just 52% of employees with mental health issues disclose these to an employer.

Therefore, many workplace wellbeing issues can go unnoticed for a long time. Without a proactive approach, these issues are likely to worsen, leading to reduced engagement and productivity, absence or an employee leaving the company. A reactive approach doesn’t give businesses what they need to create wellbeing strategies that support their employees effectively.

Some analysis of intervention for workplace wellbeing found, on average, investing in a company-wide culture change and improve awareness of mental health can offer ROI of £6 for every £1 that’s invested. In contrast, reactive support, for example offering solutions once an employee is facing a crisis – although crucial in this type of intervention – offers just £3 for every £1 invested.

Culture-focused approaches aren’t about matching employees to your values, it’s about shaping your organisation to your employees. Consider moulding your workplace culture around your existing team, with flexible support of their individual needs, so they can adhere to company values themselves.


Using data to drive decisions

For an evidence-based strategy that tackles workplace wellbeing, employers need data. This will give insight into the wants and needs of employees, highlighting areas that can be improved to understand how different practices will help improve workplace wellbeing.

Data-led wellbeing strategies show employees they’re being listened to, so they can be supported effectively to feel happy and healthy in their roles.

Companies that take up a data-led approach to workplace wellbeing, using platforms like Lumien, see an average of 4% improvement to their workplace wellbeing during the first three months. If you’re undertaking a data-led approach, ensure you’re also driving user engagement to deliver a snapshot that can inform management decisions and culture change.

To explore how a data-led approach could help to support your employees’ workplace wellbeing, book your demo today by clicking here.