Author: Jamie Styles, Director of People & Culture at Koa HealthEmployee Mental Health and Wellbeing Solutions

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the stage, ONS (The Office of National Statistics) reported 14.9 million workdays lost in 2017 to stress, depression, anxiety or serious mental health problems. As of 2021, Mental health was the number one cause of sick leave in the UK with a 31% increase in lost working time. With  astounding numbers like these, companies are more motivated than ever to prioritise employee wellbeing to keep labour turnover and burnout low. Incorporating proactive measures to support mental health into company resources and procedures has been shown to boost morale and with it, employee retention and company longevity (Deloitte). When it comes to mental health, much like physical health, the best measure is prevention. So, let’s take a look at some proactive approaches. And remember, just like on your last flight, you’ll want to put your own oxygen mask on first, i.e., look after yourself so that you’ll be up to role modelling and leading your team in your organisation’s wellbeing initiatives.

Build a culture of engagement

Companies are often focused on keeping their employees engaged with their company purpose. But to truly keep employees engaged over time, they’ll also need to have a strategy in place to keep track of how employees are feeling about their work, and what they need and want from their employers. This will help prevent occupational strain and tension. Bi-directional, frequent feedback with your employees will likely provide managers with the necessary information to know who needs extra support, what strategies aren’t working and how to change them. They’ll also help prevent occupational strain, tension and the very costly problem of burnout. Assessing outcomes and how teams feel about a specific wellbeing project can also be a source of truth as you work to formulate health-friendly procedures and keep workers happy.

Try a holistic approach

Just as mental health impacts nearly every aspect of employees’ lives, many behaviours and events affect employees’ mental wellness. While one employee could be experiencing a lack of energy because they’re having trouble sleeping, another could be under so much stress from mounting deadlines that they’re unable to concentrate and have stopped making progress on their projects altogether. This is why providing an array of tools and resources for employees to utilise is crucial to your initiative’s usability and success. Ideally, a holistic or whole-person approach offers support for social health and financial health in addition to mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. It’s also important that whatever is provided is accessible and inclusive. Many workplaces find they get their best results with a hybrid approach that combines discreet digital tools with options for virtual and in-person support.

Train leadership in supportive techniques and strategies

It’s not enough to simply offer employees mental health support, line managers and HR must know how to guide and encourage staff to make full use of these resources. When management is properly informed and implements strategies for employees to get the help they need, the benefits are exponential for the company and individual. Leaders should also be trained in how to create a psychologically safe space where employees feel comfortable seeking out support. One technique that tends to help is when managers openly discuss their experiences with their struggles and how they’ve used support for themselves.

Make workplace well-being an objective

Prioritising workplace wellness quickly transforms from  a company objective to be met, to something to be celebrated. It’s a pillar for company profits and longevity is employee wellbeing. Collective wellbeing impacts team performance and how well employees work together—this then affects both employee longevity and company profits. There is a direct relationship between workers’ health and happiness and a company’s health (The London School of Economics). Putting workplace wellbeing on the same stage as profits isn’t diluting the importance of standard company objectives, but rather potentiating them.

How being proactive pays off

If a company wants to experience lower turnover, fewer sick days and reduced employee burnout, being proactive about mental health and employee wellbeing can minimise those setbacks. A happy employee is a company’s greatest asset. Policies and procedures that have workers’ wellbeing at their core are a win-win for everyone involved.

Want to find out more about how to improve employee wellbeing and mental health at your organisation? Download our whitepaper Mental Health and The Employee Experience. You’ll learn:

  • Why mental health presents a business risk to your organisation
  • How workplace wellbeing impacts labour turnover and employee engagement
  • Ways to create an employee experience that supports mental wellness