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What’s going wrong with workplace wellbeing?

The ‘tick-box’ approach to managing mental health in the workplace isn’t working.

Taking care of employee wellbeing is about more than training a handful of managers and offering subscriptions to mindfulness apps. It’s about listening to employees and embedding practices throughout your organisation.

Poor workplace mental health has been estimated to cost UK businesses an incredible £45bn each year.

Lumien data reveals how wellbeing impacts employees 27% of the time, and as a result, companies are losing 17% productivity . Annually, this equates to £5,318.45 per employee (based on the 2021 median UK salary of £31,285).

And lost productivity isn’t the only cost, with further data revealing that half of Millennials and 75% of Gen-Z have previously left jobs due to mental health.

Mental health in the workplace:

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HR spends a third of time on mental health support for employees


The ‘tick-box' trap

As a result of Covid-19, many organisations are now taking measures to better support their employees’ wellbeing, with measures often focusing on mental health and supporting remote workers.

For many employers, this involves mental health first aid (MHFA) training, employee assistance programmes (EAPs) or subscriptions to mindfulness apps. In these instances, actions are often reactive – responding to employee issues or an employee facing a mental health crisis.

This creates a tick-box mentality, where support offered simply reflects criteria laid out by certifications or regulations. In turn, this can lead to the tick-box trap where employers invest in mental health support but actions aren’t necessarily what employees need or want and there’s often no measures to check whether it’s working or not.


A proactive approach

Mental health and wellbeing support isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Becoming more proactive is challenging, and companies will need to collect data from their teams to understand what’s right for them. It’s a bigger task, but it can result in a more effective, forward-thinking approach.

Deloitte’s wellbeing report states that one in four employees don’t make mental health issues formal for fear of negative consequences.

The Mind Workplace Wellbeing Index highlights only 52% of employees experiencing mental health issues would inform their employer. This means employee wellbeing issues can go unnoticed for extended periods of time.

With issues worsening, this will reduce engagement and productivity, and can potentially result in an employee leaving. A proactive approach, however, gives deeper insight into employee needs, so you can design wellbeing strategies that support every employee effectively.

Research into employee wellbeing intervention found that, on average, investing in this type of proactive approach can offer a ROI of  £6 for every £1 invested. Whereas, reactive support, such as treatment or therapy once an employee is facing a mental health crisis, offers an average return of just £3 for every £1 spent.


Using data to drive decisions

To develop an evidence-based strategy, employers need data to understand workplace wellbeing. Data can give an insight to the wants and needs of employees, highlighting areas that need improving, so employers can understand the impact of different strategies for mental health.

Data-led wellbeing strategies show employees they’re listened to, supporting them to feel happy and healthy in their roles.

On average, those companies who take a data-led approach to workplace wellbeing, with platforms like Lumien, see a 4% improvement to their wellbeing in the first three months. With a data-led approach, it’s also important to drive user engagement to provide a strong idea of what’s happening within an organisation to inform management decisions.


Chris Golby is director at Lumien