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Employee Wellbeing 2021

What if work was good for you?

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Louise Aston

Wellbeing Director, Business in the Community

Our mental health shouldn’t be at risk when we go to work. It’s down to employers to stop that once and for all.

Ensuring people feel safe at work should be the top priority for leaders.

When we are at work, we don’t expect to be physically injured and nor should our mental health be negatively impacted. However, the reality is that 41% of employees have experienced poor mental health caused by work in the past year.1

Added pressure on employees

The COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating the risk of burnout by the pressure for remote workers to stay online outside of working hours. In 2020, this meant British employers worked up to £24bn worth of unpaid overtime.2

As we shape our response to the pandemic, we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to reinvent ways of working that enhance mental health and wellbeing by:

Commit to prioritising mental health at work. Make the Mental Health at Work Commitment, a simple framework designed for all employers.

Establish empathy, compassion and inclusion as core leadership competencies in your foundation by training senior leaders and line managers how to listen to employees and act with care.

Create an active listening culture. Understand how your people are feeling. Business leaders can organise regular surveys and active listening sessions to create safe places at work for employees.

Worryingly, we know that one in three employees who experience poor mental health admit to telling nobody.

Creating a safe environment

One of the biggest risks facing employers now is that their employees do not feel safe to speak up about their mental health for fear of being blamed or ostracised. Worryingly, we know that one in three employees who experience poor mental health admit to telling nobody3 and are left to suffer in silence.

Tackling this means investing in psychological safety. That might sound like jargon, but it is really no different to operational safety: employees need to feel they can speak up when they see something that could be a risk to others.

Businesses need to treat mental health like a physical injury: preventing the causes, not treating the symptoms, should be their main concern. That means creating a culture in which trust and wellbeing are firmly fixed on the daily agenda and helping staff to feel that their workplace is somewhere that they really belong.

That’s when work starts to be good for employees’ mental health, not a challenge they have to overcome. And that’s just good business.

[1] BITC, Mental Health at Work, 2020
[2] TUC, Work Your Proper Hours Day, 2021 (https://www.peoplemanagement.co.uk/news/articles/uk-employees-worked-24bn-worth-unpaid-overtime-last-year-research-suggests)
[3] BITC, Mental Health at Work, 2020

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