New Year, new me? How we can improve mental health and wellbeing in the workplace in 2020

New Year, new me? How we can improve mental health and wellbeing in the workplace in 2020

27th January 2020

By Ron Moody

A New Year prompts many people to reflect on their health, with a view to making positive changes to their lifestyle in the months ahead. As we step into 2020, it’s not just individuals who’d benefit from taking a moment of rumination – organisations, too, should take a step back and assess their approach.

Mental health is something that organisations – and society as a whole – are beginning to understand better; not only the effects it can have but also the importance of taking proactive, preventative action.

Employers still putting profit before people

Some employers, however, are still guilty of failing to tie together staff wellbeing and organisational success. In a poll of 4,000 UK workers, conducted by Business in the Community (BITC) and YouGov:

If you keep staff as mentally healthy as possible, through an effective wellbeing strategy, you could see individuals – and, in turn, your organisation – begin to flourish. Absenteeism – and presenteeism – levels will drop, prompting productivity to rise. Staff that feel happy and secure are naturally going to inspire productivity and smart work.

Hamstrung by budget

Organisations want to do more for their staff in terms of wellbeing, but are finding themselves hamstrung on what they can offer by budget. This might be why they are accused of “tinkering at the edges of change rather than making the fundamental differences that are really needed to improve their employees’ mental health”, as suggested by Louise Aston, wellbeing campaign director at BITC.

In an ideal world, where money wasn’t an issue, every business would have in-house counselling sessions available to staff, free gym memberships, free healthy office snacks, mindfulness training, chill-out areas, and yoga on a Tuesday. But few employers can afford to offer all or any of the above; at least not for a sustainable length of time.

However, employee wellbeing doesn’t have to mean stretching your budget beyond what is comfortable and offering a swathe of perks; they’re more ‘nice to haves’ than crucial for an effective wellbeing programme. Although you could argue that you need one or two ‘nice to haves’ sprinkled in there to ensure you’re covering all bases.


Cost-effective initiatives

Doing nothing is not an option. As a starter for ten, employers should consider Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs), which are a strategic and cost-effective way of assisting with wellbeing problems and are embedded in almost every Group Income Protection contract.

EAPs help employees deal with personal problems that might negatively impact their work performance, health and wellbeing. An EAP will most likely involve assessment and short-term counselling, as well as referral services for employees and any of their immediate family.

The EAP consultant will discuss the needs and concerns of your staff; they’ll listen, assess the situation and then offer some steps towards a resolution. The service is designed to be a proactive measure; staff can contact a consultant at any moment and not just when they’re experiencing an issue.

We shouldn’t forget…

Most adults spend at least a third of their time at work. The least they deserve is to work for an organisation that cares about their health and wellbeing. If you care but haven’t always been the best at vocalising, 2020 is the year to make it known through a tangible wellbeing programme.  


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