How to convince your company that mental health matters
Written by Dr Claudia Pastides
, 5 min read
Warning. This blog post may make you feel very uncomfortable. And then you’ll share it with your employer, and make them feel uncomfortable too.
Discussing returns of investment and costs to business alongside mental health disease and suicide feels so very wrong, but we’re going to do it. And absolutely not because the financial costs are more important than the human costs of mental health disease, but because the cold hard facts and figures of these shocking human and business costs are sometimes what’s required to trigger a much-needed change in your workplace.
Why mental health disease matters
Poor mental health can affect anyone, at any time. 1 in 4 people in the UK are estimated to have a mental health problem each year1 and 15% of the UK workforce experiences symptoms of poor mental health at any given time2. Despite increasing awareness of mental health disease, stress, depression and anxiety are the main causes of work-related ill health in the UK3.
With full-time employees spending close to 30% of their time at work, encouraging a positive and proactive attitude towards mental health in the workplace has a significant impact on both wellbeing and productivity.
Significant human costs
The effects of mental health reach far beyond the workplace and touch every single aspect of someone’s life, from their relationships, to lifestyle and physical health too.
Crucially, mental health diseases are a devastating cause of loss of life, with 1 death by suicide in the UK every 2 hours. Suicide is the main cause of death amongst young people (aged 20-34) and the main cause of death for men under 504. This age group forms a large chunk of the workforce.
Investing in mental health
Poor mental health in the workplace amasses to a phenomenal cost of £33bn-£42bn per year in the UK. That’s between £497 – £2564 per employee and in total approximately 2% of UK GDP5.
Deloitte conducted a systematic review of the available literature and calculated that putting measures in place to support mental health had an average return of investment (ROI) of 4:1, meaning that for every investment made, the gain is 4 times as great.
In fact, the research showed that the ROI of early-stage supporting activities (through having an organisational culture of openness, acceptance and awareness) can be as high as 8:15.
A work culture and environment that is supportive of mental health benefits from:
- Reduced absenteeism. Absenteeism refers to when someone is present at work but not productive. This is incredibly common when it comes to mental health disease. A fear of talking about mental health, of being considered unfit to work or unsuitable for promotion leads to a culture where employees (of every seniority) will drag themselves into work, regardless of the fact that they feel (and are) unable to work.
- Less time off work. People with a mental health condition are 3 times more likely to have a long term period off for sickness.
- Fewer job losses. 300,000 people with a long-term mental health condition lose their jobs every year.
- Less employee turnover. There are human and economic costs to employers and losses in productivity when needing to find and train a new employee.
- Less stress on other staff. Poorly managed or supported mental health problems frequently result in increasing workloads and stress for other team members.
How to support mental health in the workplace
In January 2017, prime minister Theresa May requested an independent review looking at how employers can better support the mental health of all people currently in employment.
This review, entitled “Thriving at Work”, proposed a set of 6 “mental health core standards”, set out as a framework of actions that all organisations in the country would be capable of implementing quickly.
We’ve looked at these 6 recommended standards and found some useful resources, plus inspiring examples of good practice to share.
- Produce, implement and communicate a ‘mental health at work’ plan
- Develop mental health awareness amongst employees
- Encourage open conversations about mental health and the support available when employees are struggling
- Provide employees with good working conditions and ensure they have a healthy work life balance and opportunities for development
- Promote effective people management through line managers and supervisors
- Routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing
At Babylon we’ve had a great response to monitoring employee wellbeing. We do this using confidential online surveys, via Peakon, that are reviewed weekly by line managers. The surveys are a great barometer for how employees are feeling and the findings are then discussed openly at our stand-ups (weekly company-wide meeting).
Striving to improve
Although the modern world is more knowledgeable and open about mental health than ever before, there still remains plenty of room for improvement and many continue to find the topic an uncomfortable one. By learning from and supporting one another, and bringing mental health and wellbeing to the attention of all employers, we’ll be doing every single employee and employer a valuable, potentially life-saving, favour.
- McManus, S., Meltzer, H., Brugha, T. S., Bebbington, P. E., & Jenkins, R. (2009). Adult psychiatric morbidity in England, 2007: results of a household survey. The NHS Information Centre for health and social care.
- Lelliott, P., Tulloch, S., Boardman, J., Harvey, S., & Henderson, H. (2008). Mental health and work. Retrieved from gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/212266/hwwb-mental-health-and-work.pdf
- Health and safety at work. Hse.gov.uk. (2018). [online] Available at: http://www.hse.gov.uk/statisti... [Accessed 1 Jul. 2019)
- Mental Health Foundation. (2019). Suicide. [online] Available at: https://www.mentalhealth.org.u... [Accessed 4 Jul. 2019].
- Mental health and employers: The case for investment. (2017). [online] Available at: https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/uk/Documents/public-sector/deloitte-uk-mental-health-employers-monitor-deloitte-oct-2017.pdf [Accessed 1 Jul. 2019].
The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of a doctor with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never delay seeking or disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read here.