According to the Centre for Mental Health, an estimated 91 million work days – equivalent to £26 billion in costs to employers – are lost to British businesses each year.
Conversely, businesses which take seriously the mental health of their employees outperform those without. The top FTSE 100 companies with robust wellbeing strategies are outperforming all of the others by a staggering 10%.
When our marketing management consultancy Oystercatchers last month hosted a far-ranging industry discussion of the issues, challenges and opportunities surrounding wellbeing in the workplace and how it can and should relate to business transformation, it was clear that old ways of working are becoming obsolete as employees crave more and more freedom – younger people, especially. And as a result, better work/life balance and a more personalised approach to careers are now widely expected.
What, then, should business leaders do to get ahead of the curve and help their employees thrive and flourish?
An important first step is to create a culture in which the stigma surrounding mental health is broken down.
This means cultivating a workplace environment in which people are treated as individuals and recognised for their own particular, individual strengths. And it means encouraging people to speak openly about their problems, ensuring they are properly listened to and reassuring them that it is OK to admit when they are not OK.
To achieve this, business leaders must bring their whole self to work – leading by example to harness a culture of openness and trust.
They must train managers to the be pillars of any wellbeing strategy – educating them in the best way to listen to and help employees when help is needed. And they must understand that no wellbeing agenda can be implemented as a blanket strategy that is the same for everyone.
It’s all about culture, then.
But leaders should remember that culture is and can never be static because with every new hiring, culture will shift. Experimentation should therefore play an important role and businesses should be open-minded about trying anything – from flexible working to mobile-only weeks.
Above all, however, wellbeing within your workforce will come from ensuring your people work within an environment built on and committed to fostering open communication and trust. Get it right and the benefits to wellbeing of that will last a lifetime, not just a few weeks or months.