Woman talking to therapist

Mental health should be a year-round commitment, says HSE

A recent Deloitte report has estimated that the total annual cost of poor mental health to employers has increased by 25% since 2019, to £56bn a year. Work can be mentally demanding at times, but when it’s happening frequently or over a long period of time, it can lead to stress and start to affect physical and mental health. Building a supportive workplace, where workers look out for each other, feel able to talk about how they are feeling and relationships are positive, can help to reduce and prevent, stress developing, says the HSE. We all have a responsibility, maintains the UK’s regulatory body, to look after both our own, and others, mental health, in and out of work. Not just for one week or one month – but all year round.

So, how can we make looking after our mental health just as routine as managing safety at work? 

The first thing to be aware of is that the law requires employers to assess the potential risk from work-related stress and to act on it. This can be done by five simple steps:

  1. Reach out and have the conversation.
  2. Recognise the signs of stress.
  3. Respond to any risks identified.
  4. Reflect on what’s happened.
  5. Make it routine.

The HSE’s Talking Toolkits can help to kick-start simple, practical conversations with workers. Management training in occupational health and wellbeing can also help managers understand how to recognise the symptoms of poor mental health in their teams and act on them.

Elizabeth Hampson, Deloitte director and author of ‘Mental health and employers: the case for investment - pandemic and beyond’, said:

“We have seen poor mental health costs UK employers up to £56bn a year, an increase of 25% in the cost of poor mental health to employers compared to 2019. Mental health issues are a strong driver for the ‘Great resignation’. Long hours, increased stress and job insecurity have had a detrimental impact on quality of life during the pandemic. People are leaving their jobs, re-evaluating their careers and changing occupations in large numbers. Burnout among employees, such as feelings of exhaustion, mental distance from the job and reduced job performance, have been more evident during the pandemic. Measures by employers to improve mental wellbeing should not only benefit employees themselves but should also reduce employment costs such as recruitment costs and provide broader societal benefits.”

Jackie Henry, managing partner for people and purpose at Deloitte UK, said:

“Wellbeing must become a strategic priority for organisations of every size – not only to support employees experiencing anxiety and stress, but also to prevent people from becoming overwhelmed and overworked in the first place. Covid-19 has given us an opportunity to tackle stigma and improve awareness. Leadership should set the tone at the top: whether continuing to invest in training to help managers and employees spot signs of poor mental health and understand how to reach their employees and help.”

Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at Mind, said:

“It’s shocking but not surprising that the cost of poor mental health to employers is now up to a huge £56bn per year. We know that the pandemic has taken a huge toll on the mental health of the nation, including our colleagues. A 2021 survey by Mind of over 40,000 staff working across 114 organisations taking part in our Workplace Wellbeing Index revealed that two in five (41%) employees said their mental health had worsened during the pandemic. The lockdowns and restrictions gave lots of us more time to think about what we wanted from our lives and our careers, and as a result more of us decided to leave or move jobs. Recruiting and retaining talent is hugely important to employers, and we know employers who invest in staff wellbeing are more likely to report having staff who are happy, productive and less likely to leave. This latest report from Deloitte suggests employers see a return of £5.30 on average for every £1 invested in staff wellbeing so it’s never been timelier to prioritise staff mental health, especially given staff are once again adjusting to new ways of working, with many employers trialling hybrid working.”

The following is an employer checklist for creating mentally healthy workplaces.

Put mental health at the centre of your organisation

  • Develop an approach to mental health at work that supports mental health for everyone, allocating responsibility for mental health within the workplace.
  • Review your everyday working culture to ensure it is as mentally healthy as possible, including making positive approaches such as exercise and mindfulness available to all staff.
  • Carry out regular staff surveys to inform your approach to and policies on mental health.


Support line managers in supporting staff

  • Enable line managers to receive regular training in supporting staff with mental health problems.
  • Ensure those line managers are supported by HR and occupational health services.
  • Line managers who have their own experience of mental health problems are an asset to the company and can offer guidance.


Highlight discrimination

  • Make sure it is understood in your workplace that mental health discrimination is as unacceptable as other forms of discrimination, such as sex or race.
  • Ensure staff know that reporting any discrimination they face is encouraged.
  • Support national and local anti-stigma initiatives.


Ensure an open and equal strategy

  • Ensure your workplace is open to employing people with mental health problems, by including mental health in diversity and inclusion strategies.
  • Establish a culture where openness is encouraged, thereby giving employees a good reason to report problems.
  • Consider operating a peer support system, where staff with lived experiences of mental health problems can share their experiences and relate to other employees.