It is encouraging to see a number of high-profile employers and well-known corporate brands, such as Marks and Spencer, Anglian Water and Microsoft, implementing measures to support employees’ mental health and raise awareness of a potentially sensitive subject.
Perhaps most noteworthy about these examples is these employers’ willingness to publicly share the great efforts they are making in this area.
As all aspects of employee health and wellbeing continue to rise up employers’ agendas, more organisations are focusing on mental, as well as physical, health. With one in four people suffering from mental ill-health at some point in their lives and mental health problems costing UK employers £30 billion a year in lost productivity, recruitment and absence, there are sound reasons for employers to do so.
Yet, all too often, there remains a stigma attached to mental ill-health. This may explain why some employers are reluctant to share their workplace strategies around mentail ill-health because of the possible negative connotations and assumptions that may be made in relation to an affected employee’s ability to do their job or an organisation’s culture, for example.
This was highlighted to us earlier this year, when it became necessary for us to remove the category recognising ‘Best stress management’ from the Employee Benefits Awards 2014. The reason: no one felt they were in a position to showcase their support for their employees’ mental health.
To me, this was a real shame. While I completely understand the need for confidentiality around individual cases, an employer that has a reputation for supporting such sensitive issues will undoubtedly reap the benefits in areas such as recruitment, talent retention, employee loyalty and engagement. Not to mention the all-important impact on employee health if staff feel able to seek and take up the support available without fear of judgement or reprisal.
Organisations that share the initiatives they introduce to support employee mental health may even inspire others that are looking to take action but are unsure where to start.
Hopefully, next year, we will be able to celebrate the work of more organisations in this area.