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Flintoff, Little Mix, The Rock

Freddie Flintoff recently publicised his struggle with bulimia. Jesy Nelson from Little Mix has been open about dealing with poor mental health. ‘The Rock’ Dwayne Johnson has talked about his feelings of isolation when dealing with depression.

When such public figures talk about how poor mental health has affected them, it demonstrates that no-one is immune. Research from mental health charity Mind shows that one in four people will experience a mental health problem each year.

Of course, it’s not just the individual that’s affected, it can also affect those around them: their family, loved ones, colleagues and employers.


Effect on the business

It’s no surprise then that mental health has been rising up the corporate agenda. The Health and Safety Executive reported that work-related stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 54% of working days lost in 2018/19.

The recent pandemic will exacerbate matters for many, with uncertainty, restrictions on socialising, and being isolated from colleagues all causing anxiety; and the effects will be very much felt by employers.

Employer responsibility

Forward-thinking employers have embraced this challenge, and the majority now see it as their responsibility to support the mental health of their workforce: 75% of employers, according to research from GRiD, the industry body for the group risk industry.

It’s not entirely altruistic, the same research showed that 81% of employers saw it as good for their business to support the mental wellbeing of staff. Not only did it help them reduce the length and number of absences and mean quicker returns to work, it also increased productivity.

Employers also said the very act of having a policy in place to support mental wellbeing demonstrated the company cares for staff which increases loyalty, engagement, recruitment and retention.

This is backed up by what employees say too. Research by Legal & General showed that only 29% of employees would stay with their present employer if they were offered the same job with a competitor who offered comprehensive mental health support.

So the business case for supporting mental wellbeing is clear.


Support exists

It’s all very well employers taking responsibility, but it can be a challenge to know what that looks like in practice. A challenge increased by the fact that it isn’t always evident who might need help. As the cases of high-profile celebrities demonstrate, people can be adept at seemingly being fine.

The good news is, there are a lot of solutions available for employers to offer help. Providers continually enhance their propositions, and support is wide and comprehensive, covering a myriad of issues.

Specialists can be on hand to provide help for serious concerns from gambling and addictions to post traumatic stress disorder.

Access to 24/7 helplines can be provided, offering employees support on matters from work-related stress to dealing with neighbour disputes.

Professional counselling can be provided, and even in-patient care when needed. Help can also be extended to dependants.

Support can be standalone, or as part of company healthcare or protection policies. It’s also quite possible that many companies have access to such benefits within existing schemes they already have in place without realising.

So many schemes include access to mental health support, and employers are unaware. So it’s vital that businesses review what they have, so they – and their employees – can utilise it.

It’s also important to remember not all support is the same. Some schemes offer a light touch, limited service, others are more comprehensive. So it’s important to know what’s really included, how it compares, and – most importantly – what’s going to be of most benefit to your particular company and workforce.