Mental Health at work: From Awareness to Action

Where Top Employers lead the way, others must now follow, says Top Employers Institute's Bradley Bruce.

Mental health has never been so high on the corporate agenda. It's not difficult to see why – 1 in 4 people experience mental health conditions each year. According to the Health & Safety Executive, this means 12.5 million working days lost at a cost of up to £42 billion per year to UK businesses. 

While it has been reported that 57%* of UK employers do not meet the basic standard for supporting their employees’ mental health & wellbeing, our research shows that Certified UK Top Employers are increasingly taking as much positive action to support their people as they can. The evidence shows that 93% of UK Top Employers now offer Stress Management programmes (up from 83% in 2016), while almost as many (88%) offer Time Management programmes (up from 80%). The channels they use to support employees are as much to support non-work related mental health problems as those linked to work, with 92% of Top Employers offering a Personal Support Line available to their people to discuss anything they need to in confidence. This is important - mental health is not something employees can leave at the door or switch off on demand. And this is understood by the UK's most empathetic organisations.

Time to Change pledge

The UK’s Top Employers are constantly evolving and introducing new initiatives that will best support their people at every stage of their life. This is becoming more pertinent now, as we start to see up to five generations in a single workplace. With more being done, there's also more businesses willing to speak openly about mental health. For example, Top Employers Novartis and Olympus Medical (UK & Ireland), have both signed up to the Time to Change pledge. The pledge demonstrates an organisation’s commitment to change how they think and act around mental health in the workplace and, crucially, make sure employees facing these problems feel supported.

Top Employers are taking action

UK Top Employer Harrods implemented a number of great initiatives as part of Mental Health Awareness Week. Harrods’ Corporate Health team developed a programme of events and workshops for employees which everyone could get involved with, including complimentary exercise classes for staff featuring Yoga and HIIT, as well as creating a Relaxation Zone for colleagues to drop into and make use of massage stations, and mindfulness colouring tables. Harrods’ focus on Mental Health doesn’t stop there, with the introduction of trained Mental Health First-Aiders to support employees suffering with issues including anxiety and depression, as well as to deal with more urgent situations. We’ve also seen other Top Employers launching Lunch & Learn sessions with topics including money management & managing stress, and many utilising their unique locations to encourage employees to get away from the confines of the office and enjoy the grounds & surrounding areas.

All of this positive action will have great impact in breaking the stigma around mental health – but there’s a long way to go. Many organisations still haven’t prioritised mental health. Hopefully, though, the awareness created throughout Mental Health Awareness Week, the Time to Change pledge and the many great examples set by leading companies will shift the agenda decisively for many more from Awareness to Action.

The Top Employers Institute has been running its global HR certification programme, recognising the world’s leading employers, for over 25 years. Certified Top Employers – more than 1300 worldwide – are given access to unique global HR best practices. Do you want your organisation to join the exclusive global community of Top Employers? Find out more


*Survey from charity Health@Work