The business case for improving workplace mental health

Firstly, from an ethical perspective, the most important driver for improving mental well-being in the workplace is the human cost and how it affects individuals, their families, colleagues and the wider community. That is another post!

The financial cost of the current levels of mental ill-health in the workplace have recently been published in the Report ‘Thriving at work: The Stevenson/Farmer Review of Mental Health and Employers’, October 2017. The Review was commissioned by the Government in response to the low level of productivity in UK businesses.

Here are some of the numbers. The cost of mental ill-health to employers and the self-employed is estimated between £33bn to £42bn in lost revenue per year. This is broken down into:

  • £8bn lost through absenteeism
  • between £17bn and £26bn in ‘presenteeism’
  • and £8bn in staff turnover costs.

‘Presenteesism’ is a term used for employees who show up for work when not well enough to work productively. It may be linked to such factors as: the workplace stigma associated with telling employers about personal mental health issues; employee unwillingness to report stressful work overload in an uncertain job market.

Adding to the numbers above, the cost of lost output and NHS costs of treating mental illness gives the total cost to the UK economy to be between £74bn and £99bn per year. That makes mental well-being in the workplace a serious problem and presents a strong business case for change.

The Report states ‘At a time when there is a national focus on productivity the inescapable conclusion is that it is massively in the interest of both employers and the Government to prioritise and invest far more in improving mental health’.

The good news is that improving mental well-being in the workplace, where the organisation’s leadership is committed to change, is possible and can even be transformational in terms of increased productivity and profitability with loyal, committed employees who show up for work, work productively and stay with the employer for longer.

The Review commissioned research by Deloitte into returns on investment where organisations had implemented changes in their approach to mental health in the workplace. They found that every £1 invested in mental health initiatives yielded an average of a £4.20 return on investment, in one case up to £9.

There are many local organisations that can help:

  • individuals struggling with mental health issues
  • businesses and organisations who want to address mental health issues in the workplace

Brighter and Ethical Workplaces are hosting a free open day event showcasing the mental health support, information and services available in Reading on Thursday 17 May, from 12-3pm.

There will be several exhibitors including Mental Health First Aid, Berkshire Health Foundation Trust, Compass Recovery College, Together for Mental Well-being, ACAS, the Federation of Small Businesses and Mindfulness.


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