Monday 13 May 2019 11:34 am

Mental health and wellbeing should be top of the business agenda

More than 26m working days were lost in 2017-18 due to work-related ill health. Stress, depression and anxiety accounted for the majority of those days.

Figures like these highlight just how many people are dealing with poor mental health, and so while it may feel like this issue is receiving a lot of attention in the workplace, the job is by no means done.

In recent years, many businesses have worked hard to support mental health in the workplace and tackle stigma. And rightly so.

Evidence is mounting that where investments have been made to improve mental health, there is consistently a positive return.

The message is increasingly clear: looking after people’s mental health is good for business.

The progress so far

And things are changing. Mental health is increasingly becoming a boardroom issue. We’ve also seen the positive impact of initiatives such as the Lord Mayor’s “This is Me” campaign and the Mental Health at Work gateway, which provides businesses with resources, training and information to support good mental health.

Plus, at the start of this year mental health was, for the first time, high up the agenda at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos.

But what’s next? To take investing in mental health to the next level, employers need practical guidance and support on what good practice looks like.

To help with this, the City Mental Health Alliance’s Thriving at Work guide looks at the recommendations made by the government-backed Stevenson Farmer review, and provides a framework of suggested actions, interventions, and measures for employers.

By using resources like this, organisations can measure their progress when it comes to implementing and refining their own mental health and wellbeing strategies.

The next steps

But being reactive isn’t enough – it’s time for businesses to move towards health creation.

This is about more than just intervening when people become unwell. Creating health means making wellbeing in the workplace a boardroom issue, and embedding health into business strategy.

It requires a business-wide understanding that good mental health of employees is crucial for good decision-making at all levels, and therefore a factor in upholding market integrity.

Health-creating environments will lead to higher engagement and productivity, because our workplaces will become part of our personal well-being toolkit – providing us with human connection, new learning opportunities, purpose and meaning, autonomy, and financial health.

In a health-creating environment, the company’s success considers human flourishing as well as business prosperity. For some, health creation might mean redesigning working environments so that they are not just fit for purpose, but instead energise, inspire and motivate people. For others, it might be about rethinking roles and teams to address factors such as long working hours.

Build brilliant businesses

The size of the challenge means that no single business can do this alone. To make a lasting impact, companies need to work together to share best practice, and collaborate on changing business culture.

Tackling this challenge with the same determination that we’ve seen in recent years is vital to create businesses where people are valued, where they can bring their whole selves to work, and where they tell their friends and family that they go to work because it enhances their life beyond a salary.

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