Since we spend the majority of our adult lives at work, it is vital that employers provide sufficient employee mental health & well-being support – here’s how

Work plays a crucial role in our lives – after all, it’s where we spend the most significant amount of our time in our adult years. Therefore, it is important that businesses take the time to create a work environment that is conducive to happy, healthy employees.

It is important that businesses take the time to create a work environment that is conducive to happy, healthy employees

This is where employee mental health and well-being support comes in, which refers to both your team’s physical and mental health while they’re at work. Physical well-being in the workplace could involve the temperature in the office, their activity level and even the ergonomics of their chair. Mental well-being supports issues like stress, depression or anxiety.

A healthy, happy workforce is more valuable to a company

Employee engagement, productivity, and a number of other issues are all closely related to employee mental health and well-being. A healthy, happy workforce is more valuable to a company, according to research. According to a study by the mental health charity Mind, 60% of workers think that if their employer made steps to support their health and well-being at work, it would increase their motivation and the likelihood that they would recommend their company as a great place to work.

So, what is the takeaway from this? Well, it’s that supporting employees’ mental health and well-being is essential to a successful organisation. This article outlines how you can promote and support well-being in the workplace.

The importance of health and well-being at work

According to Research conducted in 2017, poor mental health costs UK employers between £33 billion and £42 billion a year. Considering the significant costs, it would seem beneficial to invest in the well-being of your employees.

Poor mental health costs UK employers between £33 billion and £42 billion a year

In fact, it has been shown that having a happy, healthy workforce is good for business. Many companies are now recognising that their staff are more than just ’employees’; they are individuals who serve at the foundation of the organisation.

Employee mental health and well-being support benefits both employee and employer

Looking after the health and well-being of these employees is not only the right thing to do but also a sound decision that can impact the success of the business. It actually offers both employees and employers a host of benefits, such as:

  • Lower absenteeism – Employees who feel that their well-being is being supported are less likely to take sick days. This means more people are at their desks more often, which means work will get done.
  • Increased productivity and performance – Happy employees who feel valued will be more enthusiastic about their work, resulting in increased efficiency and productivity.
  • Greater employee retention – Businesses that focus on creating a workplace culture where employees are valued will foster employee engagement and loyalty, which means staff will choose to stay with your organisation.
  • More effective recruitment – Caring for and protecting your employees will demonstrate your commitment to your employees, boosting your reputation. This will make your organisation attractive to the best talent in your sector.

What does the research say?

Investing in your employee’s mental health and well-being will not only benefit your staff but will also significantly boost your bottom line. This is further supported by research, as studies show that organisations with effective employee well-being programmes consistently outperform their competition.

The London School of Economics found that, between 2004 and 2007, an investment of £45 million into employee mental health, physical health and well-being generated a return of £225 million. According to the report, if the 13 UK industries with the weakest performance did the same, the British economy would gain £1.45 billion.

Another study carried out by the American Psychological Association in 2016 found that, in companies where employee mental health and well-being was supported, 91% of the staff felt motivated to do their best. Comparatively, only 30% of staff felt motivated in companies where well-being was not supported.

15 ways you can support employee well-being in the workplace

There are immense benefits that come with increased employee mental health, physical health and well-being support. How can you actively offer this support? Below you’ll find 15 simple ways you can do this:

  1. Encourage continuous learning

Continuous learning is vital to increasing the skillset and knowledge of your employees. However, it also has the added benefit of boosting employee satisfaction and engagement while also fostering a collaborative culture.

2. Create a mentor program

Mentor programs present an excellent opportunity for employees to learn from one another and get to know colleagues they may not otherwise meet. Additionally, such a program also provides a support system, which is necessary when depression and anxiety are at an all-time high.

3. Encourage collaboration and innovation

Open, communal workspaces are a breeding ground for collaboration and creativity. Collaboration also fosters a sense of ownership in employees as those involved feel a sense of purpose and belonging.

Open, communal workspaces are a breeding ground for collaboration and creativity

Design your office space with this in mind by providing ample seating around large tables. This way, teams can sit together and find innovative solutions to complex problems.

4. Stop multitasking

Multitasking actually hinders productivity rather than boosting it. Jumping between jobs, such as reading emails and returning calls, makes it more difficult for your employees to concentrate on their current tasks. Encourage the team members to concentrate on one task at a time.

5. Promote a work/life balance

We’re all guilty of engaging in weekend email checking and late-night work. Making this seem normal, though, will make your employees more stressed and burned out.

You can encourage your employees to find the right balance between their work and personal life in various ways, such as offering flexible working hours or a hybrid work model, encouraging regular short breaks, reviewing employee’s workloads and having managers focus on employee’s productivity and output rather than the number of hours they work.

6. Don’t forget about ergonomics

The ergonomics of our workplace can significantly contribute to maintaining the physical well-being of employees since it reduces discomfort, enhances blood flow, and strengthens muscles. The attention and general mood will consequently improve. Therefore, be sure to provide ergonomically sound, cosy, and well-maintained workplaces.

7. Align your environment with your culture

Your company’s culture and working environment should complement one another. Employees will sense the gap if your office is a sterile boiler room with little to no personality while you’re trying to promote a culture of fun, enthusiasm, and teamwork.

8. Provide an EAP

Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) provide employees with a platform where they can seek help regarding personal or work-related issues that may be negatively affecting their work performance. These programs often include qualified professionals who can provide employees with the advice they need.

9. Give your employees a break (room)

Having a break room gives your employees a dedicated space where they can sit back, relax and recharge for a short while. A break room will not only serve as a space where they can get away from their desks, but it will also encourage employees to socialise, which can strengthen company relations.

Woman relaxing on a break whilst working from home, listening to music, leaning back in chair, plants visible in background
© Dmitry Marchenko

10. Make recognition the norm

This is perhaps one of the simplest well-being initiatives to implement. Showing appreciation and recognition to your employees will show them that their contributions are valued. Evidence has shown that 70% of employees feel happier and more connected to their colleagues when they receive recognition.

Whether you choose to praise your staff in public or private is up to you; however, the importance of giving frequent recognition cannot be ignored – without it, you run the risk of employees becoming disengaged.

11. Harness the power of your data

Your people data holds some powerful insights into the health and well-being of your employees. Find out which of your teams are feeling disengaged, who is underperforming or which offices have the highest levels of employee satisfaction. You can then use the insights from this data to make effective changes to your workplace that will promote the health and well-being of your employees.

12. Let the light in

Office lighting may seem like a trivial factor influencing employee well-being, but it can make a huge difference to employee productivity. Information provided by the ILO has shown that poor lighting can contribute to fatigue, headaches, stress and eye strain. On the other hand, good, natural lighting can positively influence productivity, boosting it by 18%, according to the World Green Building Council.

13. Provide healthy food options

If you had to choose between an apple and a snack bar, we all know that the snack bar will win every time. Providing healthier food options for your employees will help them to make better choices.

14. Ask your employees what they need

No one is a mind reader; you’ll never know what your employees are lacking if you never ask. So, ask your employees for their input to learn how you can best support their health and well-being. They might think of some fantastic ideas that you never even considered!

15. Schedule social events

Social wellness is essential in any organisation. After all, work is where employees spend the majority of their time, so the social connections made here have the ability to positively or negatively affect employees’ stress levels, productivity and overall view of the organisation.

Encourage your staff to socialise with one another, whether it be over drinks after work or a lunchtime stroll. This will enhance morale and employee engagement.

Woman taking photos of plants over bath in room surrounded by houseplants
© Dmitry Marchenko

How to initiate your own employee well-being programme

Considering the considerable benefits both you and your employees can gain through the support of well-being initiatives, it would seem evident to implement your own programme.

However, issues will arise. For example, you may have to convince a sceptical board that an employee well-being programme is worth it. You will have to consider the financial cost and also the struggle of getting a workforce to change their old habits. Luckily, it is possible – follow these four steps to initiate an employee mental health and well-being programme in your organisation.

Sell the benefits to both sides

The first step is to get both your board and workforce on your side. The biggest challenge will be convincing the board that it makes financial sense. To do this, you’ll need to use statistics and other data to prove how important employee well-being is and how beneficial it will be for the business.

Next comes the challenge of getting the workforce engaged and on your side. This may not be as tough as talking to the board, but you’ll need to prove to your employees that a well-being programme will make them happier and healthier. By proving that they have a take in the process, you’ll be more likely to win them over.

Be sure to get your employees involved in the process through surveys or seminars. Ask them what types of well-being initiatives they would like to see so that you can create the most effective programme to suit their needs. Below are a few examples of regular wellness initiatives:

  • Cycling to work
  • Exercise and fitness programmes
  • On-site yoga sessions
  • Flexible working hours
  • One day a week of remote work
  • Mindfulness training
  • Office healthy eating

Additionally, think about how to get in touch with as many staff as you can. If your staff is unusually diverse or distributed, you will need to give engagement and participation serious consideration. To ensure that everyone can participate, regardless of geography, you may need to take into account certain cultural sensitivities or employ technology to provide initiatives through a web-based platform.

Make an action plan

Once you have got all the necessary parties on board, it’s time to start planning. Be sure to map out your aims and objectives, then work out how best to go about achieving those aims successfully.

You’ll need to think practically about factors such as who will run the programme and whether it will be done internally or by a third party. It’s also necessary to consider financial resources, such as finances, facilities and time.

Some other important questions to consider before beginning the programme include:

  • Will you require any additional services such as training, discounted gym memberships, or access to health and well-being portals through your benefits providers?
  • Do you need to purchase anything to make the programme a reality?
  • Do you need to reorganise the workplace or install anything?
  • How will you work employee engagement into your daily schedule?

Small changes go a long way

You may have a strategy, but you might still be unsure of how it will ultimately turn out. So it’s a good idea to start small so you can determine what works and what needs to be improved. Additionally, it will help those in control get back into the swing of things.

Once things are running smoothly, you can start to build on your initial programme. At this stage, you’ll also be able to identify those who have responded positively to the programme, your ‘well-being champions’ if you will. Use these employees to promote the programme across the workforce and encourage others to take part so that they can enjoy the benefits of better well-being.

Monitor progress

As with anything in the business world, you need to monitor progress. Keep checking in on the programme and ask yourself questions such as:

  • Which initiatives are working and which are failing, and why?
  • What segments of the workforce are the most and least engaged, and why?
  • How much does it cost to run each initiative?

Use your answers to these questions to further refine and improve the well-being programme to ensure ongoing engagement and sufficient returns.

Final thoughts on supporting well-being in the workplace

The benefits of workplace well-being programmes are clear – they are both good for people and good for business. There are many ways you can promote the well-being of your employees.

You should engage the board and your staff before implementing a well-being programme in your company to make sure you have a clear plan in place. You may then implement a programme that strengthens your company and enhances the health and well-being of your employees by tracking progress and making adjustments to the initiatives to improve results.

Written by Sarah Dowzell, COO and Co-founder at Natural HR. Natural HR Natural HR is an award-winning system designed for HR professionals by HR Professionals. For us, it’s not just about providing you with great software; it’s about helping you get the most out of our system from day one.

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