Wednesday 10 April 2019 8:41 am

Just ticking the wellbeing box isn’t enough

Follow Jo Lyall
According to the NHS, one in four people in the UK are likely to suffer from mental health issues over the course of their life.

In London, where half a million people are employed, loneliness is becoming an increasingly damaging problem, with GPs calling it an epidemic “affecting all ages”.

More than a social issue, a recent government report found poor wellbeing is costing UK employers up to £42bn annually.

Despite this, discussing mental health and wellbeing remains taboo in the workplace. So, how can we break the silence?

Do the perks really work?

First, business leaders must establish why they want to tackle wellbeing in the workplace, asking honestly whether this is more than a box-ticking exercise.

Many companies already offer a raft of “perks”, from open bars on a Friday to in-house yoga.

In principle, this is fantastic – who wouldn’t want to work for a company who appears, on the surface, to advocate for a good work-life balance?

In practice however, these perks can fall flat – an early finish is only a perk if your workload and employer allows you to take advantage of it.

Don’t be a lemming

Employers must take the time to understand what will and won’t work for their business.

For example, if an early finish isn’t feasible because of international clients, would a work-from-home policy one day a week be workable?

You also have to consider what will work for the individual. Flexibility is personal, and managers must understand the nuances of personal need in order to invest holistically in the growth of their employees.

Time to talk taboo

One of the best ways to break any taboo is to bring it into the open.

Leaders are now standing up in front of their employees more regularly to talk about health and mental wellbeing, alongside how the business is performing.

Making these links between happiness and productivity is important. If you want a culture of high performance, it’s not just skill that you need to invest in, but wellbeing as a whole.

Sharing experiences can create role models across the business, but it also reduces the stigma attached to mental health in the workplace.

Employees as consumers

Across industries, we’re increasingly seeing the consumerisation of the workplace. Just as people expect personalised experiences from brands in their private lives, so too are they demanding this of employers.

Delivering against this means understanding your employees on a micro and macro level in order to meet their unique needs.

But don’t turn to one-off gestures in order to tick the wellbeing box – while one event can act as a catalyst, it should embody an ethos that is present all year round.

Space and time

Delivering against the needs of individual employees can also involve giving them space.

When I wanted to retrain as a nutritionist, Mindshare helped me find this space – both in my calendar, by building in half a day into my week to see nutrition clients, as well as mentally, to retrain and grow my passion into expertise.

When tackling mental health and wellbeing, this space is crucial – and will allow us to avoid a one-size-fits-all approach.