What is your duty of care for your employees?

Myles Wellbeing researches how employers can improve employee mental and physical health in the workplace

Recently The Times found that rising levels of ill health among working-age people is costing the economy about £150 billion a year, the equivalent of 7% of GDP. Such ill health can be caused by a lack of workplace wellbeing. This can occur both from employers not implementing wellbeing initiatives at work but also from employees who do not prioritise their wellbeing, and struggle to find a work life balance.

With such an expense that can be aided by proper care from your employer, it is essential that workers understand the importance of physical activity on a worker’s wellbeing. Physical activity reduces stress, increases energy levels and increases good health.

Companies who promote wellbeing are better off because as research shows, 56% of employees have fewer sick days because of wellness programs. It is important to remember, however, that ill health is not just physical, but also mental.

It is therefore important that employers communicate that mental health will be treated in the same way as physical health. Organisations can back this commitment up with a clear mental health strategy to ensure employees experiencing mental health problems get the support they need straight away.

Myles Wellbeing, has researched what your duty of care is as an employer to find out the best ways you can help your employees. Supporting employees who are struggling with their mental health demonstrates your organisation’s values. All employees will feel that all their needs, particularly mental health needs which are often talked about less, are taken into consideration. If your company is positive, and works together to find solutions to problems, your company will be appealing to its current and prospective workers.

1.  Create an open work culture

Research from Mind shows that one in five people felt they couldn’t tell their boss if they were overly stressed at work and less than half of people diagnosed with a mental health problem had told their manager. From such data, it is clear that people still feel that they can’t talk to their boss about their mental health. This is why it is so important to create an open work environment in which employees feel comfortable to talk. Remember, having a conversation with your employees about mental health is where this open culture begins.

However, it’s important to remember that culture change doesn’t happen instantly, but the individual relationships built between employee and employer are key for this cultural change. If employees feel supported they will be open to talk about any problems and then together you can come up with a plan of action. It is therefore crucial that you make it clear to employees the support systems you have in place and how to access them.

2.  Be flexible

Increasingly, employees are experiencing burnout from intense working weeks. This burnout has a direct impact on a worker’s mental health because as research from a recent Deloitte survey shows, 64% of 1000 respondents say they are frequently stressed at work.

A great way to combat the burnout which 46% of Gen Z and 45% of Millennials say they have experienced at their current job is to offer flexible working. This can include working from home (although it’s important to have regular Zoom or Google Teams calls so people remain connected and don’t feel isolated) and flexible shifts. For example, four-day work weeks are emerging with great benefits and hybrid working allows employees to smoothly transition back into the office.

3.  Have an open conversation

With some obvious tell-tale signs, and some being less obvious, it is so important to create an open and welcoming work environment in which employees feel as if they can speak up if they are not mentally feeling great.

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We all have mental health, and it can regularly move up and down, depending on our mood and is affected by factors from both in and outside of work. Since we all experience it, starting a conversation about mental health doesn’t have to be difficult. At Myles Wellbeing, we looked into how to create an open environment to have this conversation, and the role of the employer in this.

4.  Offer support

Alongside having a wellbeing strategy in place, there are many other smaller things which can have a positive impact on a worker’s mental wellbeing.

  1. Regular team meet-ups outside of the office. Particularly if you are a remote company, it is so important to organise an in-person activity to have some fun and see your colleagues outside of the office.
  2. Change of workspace– e.g offer a different working environment which will suit all workers including quieter, more or less busy work areas, and dividing screens
  3. Light-box or seats with more natural light for someone with seasonal depression
  4. Training and support within the workplace for an employee who wants to progress e.g a mentorship scheme
  5. Reallocation of some tasks or changes to people’s job description and duties. Find your employee’s strong suits and play to their strengths!