Are companies reducing investment in workplace wellness paying for it?

This article published last January by Deloitte clearly explained the potential negative impact of remote working on employee mental health. Just weeks later, we were all thrown into a situation where we were all doing this with the additional pressure of social isolation, uncertainty about the future and, for some, redundancy or furlough.

There has been enough press over the months explaining the impact of Covid-19 on mental health. This is one reason that I wrote this article and have also been working with South Westminster Business Improvement Districts, charity MQ and Give a Grad a Go to offer free resources to employers and employees alike.

Reflecting back on Deloitte’s analysis now, it is important to note that for organisations who are investing in supporting their people’s mental health, the return on investment is anything between £5 for every £1 spent to as much as £11 for every £1 spent. This is a combination of increased productivity, performance and collaboration as well as reduced presenteeism, absenteeism and staff turnover.

Rebecca George OBE, Deloitte Vice Chair and UK Public Sector leader, and Deloitte director, Elizabeth Hampson, both highlight that early intervention is key, preventing more in-depth support that may otherwise be needed at a later stage. Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, reiterates this explaining that forward-thinking employers save money in the long run.

This all emphasises that companies who are reducing their investment in employee wellness and workplace mental health support, may be paying for it. Furthermore this not immediately obvious as most organisations have no way of tracking this. On the contrary, many companies have seen that absenteeism rates have reduced since lockdown and have read this as a very positive sign, unaware of the potential issue of presenteeism that this could be masking. And presenteeism costs three times more than sick leave, therefore if you have noticed this trend, it could be time to reflect a little deeper.

This brings us back to the challenge of how we can measure the impact of positive mental health in the workplace, an area I am working closely with mental health research charity MQ to address. When we ensure we are doing this effectively we are in a much stronger position to direct initiatives appropriately to optimise that ROI. We also see that by effectively measuring and monitoring progress we can increase that return further.

I therefore invite you to consider five simple questions:

  • How could the mental health of your team be impacting your bottom line?

  • Are you ready to start investing in supporting mental fitness in your business?

  • How will you know when you are having the impact you want?

  • How can you go beyond a staff survey to really understand the results you see?

  • What one action can you take today to make that happen?

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