Why Businesses Need to Prioritise Wellbeing

Stressed employee

Although the Covid-19 pandemic has had countless negative impacts on our lives and the world, it has also brought the importance of mental health into the spotlight and shaken off some of the stigma associated with it.

In a previous post, I discussed the ‘Every Mind Matters’ campaign, the first of its kind from the new Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, which aims to tackle health inequalities across the UK by putting prevention at the heart to help people live longer, healthier and happier lives. The fact that the government has launched a personalised ‘Mind Plan’ through the ‘Every Mind Matters’ platform is a sign that mental health is finally beginning to receive the investment it deserves.  

As we continue to see the results of dozens of surveys and research that show just how significantly Covid-19 has impacted our wellbeing, and as we continue to live with the unknown future, the crucial need for employers to provide mental health support to their staff, such as coaching and wellbeing training, has also stepped into the spotlight.

What is poor mental health costing employers?

From 2019 to 2020, stress, anxiety, and depression accounted for 17.9 million working days lost in the UK, costing employers between £33 billion and £42 billion annually. Let’s just pause and reflect on how greatly these figures would be reduced if staff had access to personalised mental health support and if they were immersed in a positive workplace culture that empowered them to thrive. How different would the picture be?

Recent research has found that 42% of employees across the UK said that toxic workplace culture has impacted their mental health, while 41% confirmed bad workplace culture has impacted their productivity. Further, a staggering 42% have previously left a job due to negative workplace culture.

Gemma McCall, CEO of Culture Shift, an organisation creating positive change in workplace culture, says, “It’s common knowledge that organisations renowned for treating their employees fairly and those focused on creating a safe and supportive environment typically thrive and are more successful.”

On the other hand, she adds, “A problematic workplace culture can have an incredibly damaging effect on employee retention, often leading to high levels of attrition, resulting in organisations with a deep-rooted negative culture losing great talent.”

What do workers want? Mental health support

Workplaces that don’t provide mental health support and preventative practices not only risk losing staff — they also risk not attracting great talent in the first place.

Tim Munden, chief learning officer and global wellbeing lead at Unilever, says, “Integrated mental health support is increasingly becoming an employee expectation, so to attract the best talent, attitudes need to shift.”

With more organisations and businesses recognising the importance of mental wellbeing, it’s clear that generations entering the workforce “will not want to work in places that don’t create human environments,” he adds.

A recent survey of 1,000 office-based workers in the UK found that one in five (19%) would be more likely to consider working for an organisation if it offers dedicated mental health support, while almost half (44%) admitted that their working environment has impacted their mental health.

When it comes to desirable features in the workplace, the survey also found that dedicated mental health support was twice as popular as recreational spaces.

Mental wellbeing needs to be “at the forefront of a company’s framework”

The above findings are a clear indication of the changing nature of workplaces and employee needs — whereas once social spaces or games areas might have been a desired feature for workers, the ability to access mental health and wellbeing support is now clearly far more important.

As Alex Hattingh of Employment Hero comments: An employer who leaves mental health care purely to their staffs own obligation does not care for their employees’ wellbeing.

According to Brett Cohen, COO at behavioural healthcare provider Ascellus, “More than ever, it’s important to keep mental health at the forefront of a company’s framework and reduce the stigma around seeking mental health support.”

He adds that being open about mental health with employees, and “leading your employees through a relationship of compassion, trust and value can help them continue working or return to work faster.”

Employees are individuals, so they need individualised support

Let’s look at some of the key words that Cohen uses above: “relationship of compassion, trust and value”. To me, the most significant word here is “relationship”, as providing mental wellbeing support to employees means treating them as individuals with unique goals and wellness needs. 

This is exactly why a one-size-fits-all approach simply does not work when it comes to providing employees with the services and resources they need to overcome personal challenges and thrive in the workplace. It’s why the UK government has invested in the personalised ‘Mind Plan’ through the ‘Every Mind Matters’ platform, and it’s exactly why businesses need the services of wellbeing coaches.

As Unilever’s Tim Munden says, “Yes, we care about mental health for performance and to attract talent, but also because it’s the right thing to do. The simplest thing employers can do is treat people with respect and dignity.” Respect and dignity can only flourish when employees are treated and valued as individuals.

It’s time for businesses to walk the talk

A survey conducted in January this year found that although 96% of CEOs consider their employee mental health efforts to be adequate, only 69% of employees agree, revealing a significant gap between official workplace policy and the actual effectiveness of programs. This is a major warning sign that even when a workplace does have mental health services in place, they may not be catering for individual employee needs.

It is crucial to remember that wellbeing isn’t as straightforward as, for example, cardiovascular health. While almost everyone would benefit from a gentle aerobics class, we can’t say the same about a group therapy session. Although most of us would probably feel better after a long walk, the same does not apply to a generic mental health quiz.

According to Windy Maledu, a coach and senior behavioural scientist at CoachHub,  personalised training and wellbeing coaching on an individual level are “proactive and preventative measures businesses can take to intervene early, showing appreciation for the wellbeing of staff while helping to prevent unnecessary pressure and reducing the risk of burning out.”

We believe that one’s wellbeing impacts all areas of life and traverses across both personal and professional spheres. As such, organization’s need to realise that their staff’s wellbeing, and hence productivity, is affected by all aspects of life, both inside and outside of work.

As we are all different, with differing stresses and strains on our lives, the sooner the management initiate individualised wellbeing initiatives to support their workforce, the better for everyone. And that’s why having Wellbeing Coaches as part of the organisation will help immensely.

Wellbeing coaches help individuals to design their own solutions

By skilfully listening, questioning, encouraging, challenging, and supporting, a Wellbeing Coach helps someone to create and follow through their own solutions to their problems and challenges.

They assist someone with stress management, coping strategies, self-care, goal-setting, mindfulness, and managing emotions, by always focusing on their individual needs, which is exactly why their skills and expertise are becoming increasingly in demand as more and more employers realise the value of investing in personalised mental health support.

For a list of career opportunities as a certified Wellbeing Coach, click here, or click here to find out more about training to become a Wellbeing Coach, and how you can help people protect their mental health now and into the future.

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