Wellness is more than a ‘tickbox’ exercise

Employers need to do more for the mental health of their staff, says James Shillaker, director at Incorpore. They should focus on developing a strategy that cares for their bodies and their minds, providing whole person support for the whole year

Many organisations still do not see the value of wellness strategies, despite a growing realisation of the extent of poor mental health within the workplace and the widespread, negative effects of poor employee wellbeing.

The Employee Benefits/Health Shield Healthcare Research 2018, published in August 2018, found that 37% of organisations do not have specific benefits and strategies in place to support employees’ mental health, and only 33% offer an integrated wellness strategy which incorporates physical, mental, emotional and financial wellbeing. With one-in-four people in the UK experiencing a mental health problem each year, these figures should be higher.

Having a wellness policy

Legally, every organisation must have a health and safety policy; it should be a requirement to have a wellness policy, too.

We spend a lot of time discussing employee benefits and engagement, yet employers often fail to put together a formal, documented policy surrounding wellness. No matter the size of the organisation, whether it has 10 employees or 10,000, such a policy is important. It should encompass a 360° approach to ensuring that the physical, emotional and social wellness needs of the workforce are met proactively.

Many employers talk about wellness – but this is just talk until something is put down in writing. Incorpore has created just such a wellness policy; it provides a distinct outline of the organisation’s approach to creating a healthier work environment.

Mental health first-aiders

The Mental Health at Work Report, published in October 2017 by Business in the Community, revealed that fewer than a quarter of line managers have received any training around mental health, while only 58% of employees feel their line managers are genuinely concerned about their wellbeing.

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It is sad to see statistics like these. Just as physical first-aiders are integral to supporting the physical health of employees, every organisation should have a mental health first-aider too.

A mental health first-aid course teaches individuals to have an in-depth understanding of the issues that might be faced by employees, as well as how to spot the signs that someone is suffering. It also helps build confidence to aid a person in distress, listen non-judgmentally and guide others towards professional support.

Due to a growing campaign on the subject, it may soon become a legal requirement to have a mental health first-aider in the workplace, so employers should get ahead of the game and start investing now.

More than just a one-off 

Neglecting employees’ wellbeing can increase sickness and absenteeism, decrease productivity and engagement and cause low morale and high staff turnover; all these factors can pose a substantial risk to the services delivered by an organisation.

Employers play a vital role in encouraging healthy behaviour within the workplace, so organisations should work to gauge the areas in which their employees most need help, and use these as the starting point for a truly effective wellness strategy.

When developing these wellness programmes, it is important to remember that a one-off event does not make a strategy, that time and effort needs to go into planning and that employees need to be supported from the top down. Employee-wellbeing cannot just be a box to tick off each year.

Find the ‘Mental Health at Work’ toolkit portal here: https://www.mentalhealthatwork.org.uk/

James Shillaker is a director at Incorpore. This article first appeared on the employee benefits website.

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