Fixing the wellbeing gap – employees take a week off work on average due to mental health

7th May 2024

Against the backdrop of another tough year for the country, workers are facing a mental health recession and taking more time off due to mental health.

A study conducted by Westfield Health found that on average employees take a week off work each year due to their mental health. Despite this, the majority of workers (63%) aren’t accessing any mental health support.

Unfortunately, the study also revealed there is little sign of things improving, with more than half (57%) of those surveyed saying they felt somewhat or very anxious the previous day.

Businesses have committed to tackling the problem by introducing mental health support such as 24/7 advice lines and Mental Health First Aid training. Despite this, more than half (58%) of workers with access to wellbeing support at work do not use it.

This is resulting in a wellbeing gap as mental health worsens but businesses are still not seeing engagement with the support they offer. Westfield Health warns that spending wisely is more important than spending more, especially as budgets are squeezed.

To tackle the mental health recession employers need a strong wellbeing strategy focused on what employees need. Unless the support offered by businesses has an impact, the crisis will continue to spiral and ultimately affect talent retention and the bottom line for businesses.

Commenting on this, Vicky Walker, Group Director of People at Westfield Health, says:

“While it’s encouraging that businesses recognise the importance of wellbeing at work, the decline in workers’ mental health across the country is cause for concern and needs action.

“Many businesses are hoping to increase their wellbeing spend, but budgets remain tight. Our research found that the top barrier for HR teams investing more in wellbeing was a lack of budget. It’s not just about what you spend, it’s about how you spend it.

“To stop the wellbeing gap worsening, businesses need to be strategic. To get the most out of their investments, employers need to have a wellbeing strategy that’s effective, measurable and impactful with engagement from employees. Without a strategy, their efforts may go to waste.”

One of the top reasons why employees are not engaging with their employer’s wellbeing support is due to a lack of two-way communication. The research found that 42% of employees were not being asked to input into their workplace’s wellbeing strategy and less than half (43%) feel their manager is there for wellbeing support.

Vicky continues:

“Businesses need to do more with less, and that means there is added pressure to prove the impact that your wellbeing support is having on both employees and business outcomes. Our research found that only 38% of workers said their employer has a wellbeing strategy and 35% measure wellbeing results.

“Employee wellbeing is hanging in the balance as mental health worsens which will inevitably hit productivity and bottom lines. Creating an employee wellbeing strategy is the most effective way for businesses to help their people through this.”

With communication and support being key, Vicky shares the steps to what an ideal wellbeing strategy should involve:

  1. Engage with employees and collect data – ask them how they feel about what they need to improve their wellbeing, the organisation’s culture, values and their wellbeing at work to identify areas of concern for the organisation;
  2. Identify themes and objectives;
  3. Review against business priorities;
  4. Create or update wellbeing strategy;
  5. Implement and monitor the strategy.

 

 

“It’s important to continually review your strategy, it’s a cycle, not a linear process. So when step five is underway, it’s time to return back to step one and repeat the process again and again.

“Measuring your wellbeing strategy’s success is what will lead to real engagement from employees. This, in turn, leads to future investment. At a time when HR needs to prove an impact, and balance budgets and wellbeing, the importance of strategy can’t be ignored.”

For further information, access Westfield Health’s mental health resources at https://www.westfieldhealth.com/mental-health-puzzle

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