Caring for your employees’ mental health and wellbeing

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Tony Bartholomew

5 minute read

Did you know that the leading cause of work sickness absence in the UK is mental ill-health?

The 2017 Thriving At Work1 review found that 300,000 people who experience long-term health problems lose their job every year and 15% of people in work struggle with mental health problems.

Of course, the coronavirus pandemic has made this situation worse. Mental health is increasingly under the spotlight as many employees struggle with working from home or find themselves experiencing some form of depression.

A recent Office for National Statistics report2 has found that almost one in five adults (19.2%) were likely to be experiencing some form of depression during the pandemic in June 2020; this had almost doubled from around 1 in 10 before the pandemic (July 2019 to March 2020).

Another study by Mitrefinch has found that professional anxiety rose by 4,000% among Britons throughout the early stages of lockdown.

The figures that show the effect this has on organisations speak for themselves:

  • Poor mental health costs UK employers between £33 billion and £42 billion a year 3
  • Replacing an employee costs on average 21% of their annual pay 4
  • 87% of HR leaders say improved retention is a high or critical priority for their organisation5

Fostering an open and nurturing culture focused on mental health and wellbeing is a priority for organisations, now more than ever. Providing the right support for employees creates a happier workforce with fewer lost hours and better retention. Such a culture will be seen as attractive by current and future members of staff.

But while talking about the impact on mental health on their career may have become less taboo in the last few years, there is still room for improvement, as shown by research by not-for-profit healthcare provider Benenden Health:

“While the research asked workers to consider the impact of their mental health throughout their working life, rather than solely during the current crisis, over half of respondents cited that they were honest with their employer about why they took time off.

However, three in ten claimed they had a physical issue, while 24% said they took annual leave instead to avoid any questions or embarrassment.” 6

Bob Andrews, CEO at Benenden Health summed it up well. “The only way to tackle this is for businesses to prove to their employees that they genuinely care about their wellbeing.”

Here at BestAtDigital, we’ve been fortunate enough to work with clients who are putting this topic at the forefront of their strategy.

With one organisation, we created an immersive HTML5 learning experience which brought the subject alive through a video drama, focusing on the story of a colleague struggling with their mental health. We used this to help employees explore how to have a conversation with colleagues who are struggling, without the fear of somehow getting it “wrong”.

For another organisation, we created a similar experience but also created a highly visual, easy to use online portal which provided immediate access to a range of other assets and tools on the subject. This was then widely promoted and made available to all employees within the organisation.

As well as experienced learning and UX design skills, we bring expertise in behavioral science to the table to help organisations to craft experiences and resources that will work for their specific work culture.