Employee mental health and wellbeing schemes an ‘essential differentiator’ for UK businesses

Initiatives to support employee wellbeing are no longer seen as a ‘nice to have’ but as an essential differentiator. As many as 88 per cent of business and HR leaders in the UK are working towards improving employee wellbeing, such as by offering wellness and work-life balance programmes in the workplace, compared with a global average of 82 per cent. The findings come from the 2019 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends survey, which tracks the top trends shaping the agenda for organisations.

UK organisations are more likely to offer employees mental health support than their global counterparts. 36 per cent of businesses in the UK currently have mental health counselling programmes in place, against a global average of 21 per cent.

This follows Deloitte analysis for the Stevenson-Farmer independent review which found that poor mental health costs the UK economy between £74 billion and £99 billion a year, with workplace interventions showing a return to business of between £1.50 and £9 for every £1 invested.

Anne-Marie Malley, UK human capital leader at Deloitte, explains: “It’s positive to see that many UK businesses are taking steps to champion mental health in the workplace, but it’s clear that more still needs to be done. Offering mental health support to employees not only helps British workers to thrive but also makes good business sense and supports the wider economy.”

Just five per cent of organisations have ‘extensive’ wellbeing programmes While many are now prioritising wellbeing in the workplace, the UK may still have some way to go before even the most basic initiatives are truly embedded across all organisations. Three in five (59 per cent) UK organisations report having limited or basic wellbeing programmes, typically focused on traditional interventions such as adjusted working patterns and additional exceptional leave.

36 per cent of UK businesses offer wellbeing programmes ‘beyond the traditional’, including mindfulness, life balance and financial fitness, compared with a global average of 24 per cent, but just 5 per cent of organisations in the UK claim to offer ‘extensive’ wellbeing programmes, which are actively tracked to measure the impact on workplace productivity and efficiency.

Currently, wellbeing programmes are valued by organisations for their impact on employee engagement and productivity. 68 per cent say that wellbeing programmes have a positive impact on supporting employee retention in their organisation, while 64 per cent say it promotes employee productivity and improves results. Meanwhile, 56 per cent say it supports employee recruitment and employment branding.

Malley adds: “Organisations in the UK are no longer measured solely on their financial performance and the quality of their products and services. Rather, they are also judged on the way they treat and engage with their staff and customers, the support they give to the communities in which they operate and their impact on society as a whole. This is increasingly important for attracting and retaining staff, building a strong reputation and cultivating loyalty amongst customers.”

Organisations in the UK are increasingly recognising the importance of investing in employee wellbeing. However, many are still questioning where to start. Bridging the gap between awareness and action requires businesses to make wellbeing a priority at the most senior management levels. After this, an adequate review of organisational needs, understanding what is best practice and targeting interventions to the needs of those in the organisation will be key drivers of success.

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