While most employers wouldn’t think twice about allowing an employee with a broken leg to work from home, or scheduling time off for an employee to recover from an operation, businesses don’t always have the same understanding when it comes to mental health. Yet our recent research has revealed that if you want to attract and retain committed employees, their mental health needs to be a priority within the workplace.
Generational attitude shifts
Our Mental Health in the Workplace Report revealed that despite seven in ten employees having suffered from a condition relating to mental health, over half of employees surveyed said their employee doesn’t have an official mental health or wellbeing policy (27.9%) or don’t know if they do (26.1%). And less than a quarter (23.8%) said their company regularly engages with them on issues of mental health.
And it looks like this could have real consequences for employers. We discovered that almost half (45.6%) of surveyed employees would look for alternative employment if their employer didn’t provide support in relation to a mental health condition.
As we dug deeper into this issue, we found a very interesting generational difference. Over half of 18-24 year olds (50.5%) and 25-34 year olds (57.4%) would look for alternative employment, compared with just 25.8% of employees over the age of 65. These findings suggest that attitudes towards mental health – and expectations within the workplace – are shifting with the next generation. We spoke with several different employees about this shift and here are just a few of the responses we heard:
“As the years have gone by, people discuss it [mental health] more, especially the younger generation.”
“There is a generation issue – younger people are more open, but the older generation don’t want the intrusion; it’s up to the individual.”
“It’s a generational thing; older people try and sort it out themselves, whereas the younger ones are more willing to talk.”
The 2016/17 Workplace Wellbeing Index conducted by Mind found that the budget isn’t always reflective of employee’s mental health needs. While large organisations set aside around 11% of their annual operating budget for workplace wellbeing, small and medium sized organisations set aside under 0.5%.
Yet it is in the interest of businesses to support employees suffering from mental health conditions. A total of 15.8 million days were lost last year due to mental health conditions. Our research found over four in ten (43.5%) people who have taken time off work related to a mental health condition have taken over 10 days.
And if an employee does decide to move on? It’s expensive – a report carried out by Oxford Economics found that replacing staff costs around £30K per employee. Mind estimates that combined absence and staff turnover costs businesses around £2.4 billion each year. On the flipside, it has been reported that every pound spent on employee wellness results in a saving of £2.50, thanks to reduced sickness absence and improved staff retention.
How employers can improve their wellbeing strategy
It seems clear that having a mental health policy in place can help to retain and attract employees. Our research highlighted some clear steps, in addition to creating a formal policy, which employers could take to improve their wellbeing strategy:
- Access to a confidential mental health helpline: Almost seven out of ten employees (69.1%) would use a confidential mental health helpline provided by their current or future employer if they were experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition.
- Provide line managers with appropriate training: Eight out of ten employees (83.2%) think it would be helpful if all businesses provided mental health awareness training to line managers.
While mental health has finally made its way on to the national agenda, it is still a relatively new issue within the context of the workplace. Many employers aren’t aware of the prevalence of mental health issues amongst employees or how best to support them.
Our Mental Health in the Workplace Report will talk you through mental health within the workplace and provides some guidance on how best to help and support your staff. Our suggestions are backed up with data and interviews with employees. Interested? Download the report for free
Find out how our business health and wellbeing services could support both your business and employees here or call Benenden free on 0808 274 1958.
This article was originally published here on the Benenden website.