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The value of a happy and content workforce cannot be understated. It could be the difference between making a profit or filing for bankruptcy. This may sound hyperbolic, but we assure you, it is very much a reality.

Not promoting good mental health and wellbeing at work is a false economy. The cost of poor mental health could be as much as £45 billion for UK employers and costs the UK economy between £74 billion and £99 billion per year. For every £1 invested in mental health, employers can expect a return of £5 per employee in reduced absences and staff retention. 

As our ways of working evolve, so do our employer expectations. Supporting mental health is vital and early intervention does pay dividends in the long run. There has been a seismic shift in workplace culture. The 9-5 era of working in the office is now a thing of the past and if it isn’t in your workplace, it should be something you reconsider. As a nation, we are talking about mental health more and amongst employers, there is a larger degree of openness to discuss these things. Progressive companies are now recognising mental health and wellbeing as their problem and are providing more resources to help suffering employees. 

This is encouraging – so why are costs climbing year on year?

A predominant factor is the significant increase is presenteeism, in which employees work at non-productive times. An ‘always-on’ culture can also be detrimental to employees’ mental health. While technology is partly to blame, so are the lockdowns of last year. Disconnected from the physical world, our lives moved even more online.

Over the last 18 months, the world was ‘always-on’ to survive. The move to remote working exacerbated this as employees relied on calls, emails and zooms to stay connected. Technology enables us to be available, leading to people to overwork, despite being unproductive and suffering from ill health.

For there to be a profound and sustained impact on employee wellbeing, there needs to be a cultural shift in how we view this at work. Wellbeing goes beyond a one-off day or a Friday pizza party. It needs to feed into every business decision, ensuring the wellbeing offering grows and flexes to the dynamic needs of the team. 

Mental health in the workplace is complex. With the financial implications, it’s an issue that is hard to ignore. Knowing where to start, however, can be challenging. As an employer, you have a shared responsibility for your team’s wellbeing and need to make sure your workplace is conducive to a happy and fulfilled workforce. 

  • Discourage out of hours emails

If an email is sent out of hours, the perceived expectation is that you require a response. Even if you don’t, alerting someone out of hours can cause stress and anxiety. Having a company-wide policy that discourages emails after a set time disconnects people from work and allows them to enjoy their own time uninterrupted.

  • Encourage company wellness days and activities

Company-wide wellness days, retreats and activities all have a part to play in employee wellbeing. These should be factored into the workday and attendance should be encouraged. To maximise the impact and ensure lasting results, employers must step away from the mindset that deadlines still need to be met despite employee attendance. Workload must not deter attendance and this is up to you to create a business culture where wellbeing is prioritised over projects. 

  • Create time away from tech

Tech is very positive, transforming the way we work and live our lives. There can be, however, too much of a good thing; technology may also have a detrimental effect on our wellbeing. Creating time in the workplace that is phone-free can breed creativity, in turn boosting feelings of wellbeing.

  • Offer personal wellbeing and mental health days

Mental health presenteeism is a growing issue and businesses need to deal with this head-on. In addition to holiday days, having the flexibility to take wellbeing and mental health days can provide vital reprieve for afflicted staff. Being able to recharge, without using precious holiday days, can be a lifeline for some employees.

  • Encourage wholesome nutrition, hydration and exercise

The benefits of a healthy diet, water and physical movement are undeniable. Implementing stretching or yoga during the workday not only promotes wellbeing but also enhances productivity. A well-stocked canteen or healthy snack machines take the stress of meal prepping for some and ensure a balanced diet for most. Meal delivery services are also growing in popularity. With busy schedules, many people struggle to find time to cook and plan meals, making food delivery services, like Fresh Fitness Food, a convenient option for employees.

There is not a single plan that will meet the needs of everyone. Employee mental health and wellbeing is dynamic and ever-changing. Anything that businesses implement needs to be just as flexible. What is clear, is that it cannot be taken lightly. Wellbeing needs to form part of your business plans in order to future-proof your organisation.

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