Progressive employers are taking a whole person, whole organisation approach to wellbeing

When I first joined Business in the Community (more than 10 years ago), health and wellbeing were positioned as fluffy, nice to have bolt-ons, and included a medley of fragmented initiatives like ‘fruity Fridays’.

Progressive employers are taking a whole person, whole organisation approach to wellbeing

Finally, wellbeing has come into its own. Both the business and social case are compelling and health and wellbeing are now firmly established as core components of responsible business. Business is at its best when people are at their best. Business in the Community engages businesses to become more responsible and tackle some of society’s biggest issues, including mental health.

At Business in the Community, we advocate a whole person, whole organisation approach to wellbeing. We define wellbeing as the inextricable relationship between physical, mental, financial and social wellbeing. Mental health is the common thread, as we know there to be no health without mental health. Health and wellbeing should be positioned as strategic boardroom issues supported by line manager capability and accountability, and reported on publicly. They should also be aligned to Stevenson and Farmer’s enhanced mental health standards promoted in their Thriving at work report. After all, we know the old adage of ‘what gets measured gets managed’ to be true.

There is currently a major issue with how mental health is approached in the workplace. Business in the Community’s third annual Mental Health at Work Report – 2018, produced in partnership with Mercer, highlights that slow, incremental positive progress is being made. Sixty per cent of employees feel their line manager is genuinely concerned for their wellbeing, compared with 55% in 2016. Seventy one per cent of employees say they have the confidence to recognise the signs of poor mental health compared with 64% in 2016, and 85% of managers acknowledge that employee wellbeing is their responsibility. That figure was 76% in 2016.

However, mental health at work has now reached epidemic proportions, with one in three of the UK workforce having been formally diagnosed with a mental health condition at some point in their lifetime, our report shows.

Worryingly, 61% of employees have experienced a mental health issue due to work or where work was a related factor and 64% of managers feel they have had to put organisational interests ahead of the wellbeing of their team at some point.

There are many injustices surrounding the lack of parity between physical and mental health. Employees don’t generally expect to be physically injured at work and they shouldn’t expect to be psychologically harmed either. Responsible employers should be protecting their people’s mental health at work by creating quality work and an environment that supports thriving people, thriving business and thriving communities.

The good news is that there are businesses doing this well. They are responding to and taking action on the insight they gain from their employees, and research and surveys such as Business in the Community’s Health and Wellbeing Responsible Business Tracker. These businesses should be celebrated but the work is not yet done. Responsible employers must continually strive to create a healthy environment for employees recognising that if employees thrive so too can businesses.

The author is Louise Aston, wellbeing director, Business in the Community.

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