Poor Mental Health is costing UK businesses over £43bn

24 Jan 2020
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How much of that is your business contributing?

That’s quite a headline.

In research conducted by Deloitte (‘Mental health and employers: the case for refreshing investment’ published in January 2020), they found that the figure shows an increase of 16% over the last piece they did in 2016, which stood at £37bn.  This latest research builds on the work conducted by Deloitte in 2017 for the Stevenson-Farmer Review that produced the Thriving at Work Report, commissioned by the UK Government under Theresa May, which looked into workplace mental health.  They calculated then that poor mental health cost UK employers £33-42bn a year.
So, £45bn – wasted.
The costs involved in ignoring mental health and wellbeing are driven largely by ‘presenteeism’ where employees work when they are not at their most productive, either being present but not producing or working early or late or even whilst on holiday.  Mental-health related absenteeism and staff turnover have also contributed to the costs overall (although quite how much is unclear as people who call in sick due to mental health problems often cite other issues for fear of stigma).
And who’s problem is it anyway – employer’s or your employee’s?  Arguably it’s an individual issue, and there is some mileage in expecting employees to self-manage their own mental health, just as they should their physical health but work plays a big part in wellbeing.  Yes, you can expect people to look after their health, eat properly, exercise, get enough sleep, etc but if they are being over-loaded with work, unable to complete everything within the boundaries of a working day, excessive pressures and unrealistic deadlines, etc then it is your problem.
We are living in an ‘always-on’ culture which has a big impact on our collective mental health, but it’s complex because technology is embedded in our lives. It enables us to work at home, but also to do ‘home’ things at work, such as browse and book holidays, online shopping, etc.
Elizabeth Hampson, Deloitte Director and author of ‘Mental health and employers: the case for refreshing investment’, states:
“Understanding more about the relationship between mental health and work is in all of our interests. Our research finds that, while an increased use of technology can enhance working practices, having the ability to work outside of normal working hours can add to the challenge of maintaining good mental health, and make it hard for some to disconnect from an ‘always-on’ culture. The costs of this are significant, for those with poor mental health and for UK employers, and we hope this analysis can help both.”
Supporting your employees should be at the heart of your culture, after all you want them to be fit and well, not just to be able to carry out their duties but to do it with energy and enthusiasm, with care and pride too.  And they’re not going to be able to do that if they’re struggling with mental health issues.
For every £1 spent on supporting individuals, it’s estimated that employers get £5* back, that’s a 500% ROI – not a bad investment by anyone’s standard!
And there is also competitive advantage to be had in the form of talent retention and attraction – your company could and should be a desired place to work, a place in which your employees are your best advocates.  Remember, they talk to clients, to suppliers, to competitors, to their friends and families, they are your mouthpiece.
So it definitely pays to support your employees.
How can you as an employer tackle this problem?
Firstly it’s recognising that mental health is something we all have and it’s here to stay.  It is inextricably entwined in our working lives because everyone who comes through the workplace is a whole person, they aren’t leaving their ‘personal’ lives at the door as they come in, just as they don’t leave their ‘work’ lives when they leave.
Secondly, early intervention (and that’s where some of the £1 spend comes in) has a massively positive impact.  It’s a preventative and proactive stance that includes organisational culture and education, with more personalised support available should it be needed.
The report highlighted that young people are the most vulnerable demographic in the workplace, highlighting studies that find higher prevalence of mental health problems among younger age groups, so particular attention and support may be needed depending on your employee profile.
It finds that employers lose the equivalent of 8.3% of the salaries of those aged 18-29 as a result of poor mental health – the highest of any employee age group. Young people are also less likely to disclose mental health problems to employers and more likely to use their holiday instead of taking days off work.
So investing in mental health and wellbeing isn’t a one-off quick fix, it involves a long term strategy and investment that will reap rewards.
Rebecca George OBE, Deloitte Vice Chair and UK Public Sector Leader says:
“As our ways of working evolve, so do expectations of employers about how we should support our people. This analysis shows very clearly that it pays for employers to provide mental health support at work and that early intervention is vital, for those experiencing poor mental health and employers alike.”
Since the first research in 2017, Deloitte has found that there have been positive changes in workplaces, including greater openness in discussing mental health at work particularly in larger employers, and there’s more provision of support overall.
A switch for problem resolution to wellbeing solutions
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, says:
“Smart, forward-thinking employers are investing in staff wellbeing, and those who do tend to save money in the long run. This report shows the link between prioritising staff wellbeing and improved loyalty and productivity; and decreased sickness absence and resignations. However it also shows a rise in ‘presenteeism’ – unwell staff spending unproductive hours at work rather than taking time off.
“As presenteeism costs three times more than sick leave, we need to look at supporting employers to change the culture so their staff feel able to take time off when they are unwell. The Government must also play their part by improving the definition of disability under the Equality Act, so more people with mental health problems can benefit from its rights and protections, as well as increasing the amount of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) staff receive when they’re off sick. Employers can access resources to help prevent poor mental health and promote wellbeing through the Mental Health at Work Commitment.”
*£5 ROI in reduced presenteeism, absenteeism and staff turnover.
We can help you bring in those positive changes, through educational training on stress management and prevention, talks and 1-2-1 consultations.  Prevention is at the heart of what we do, because we firmly believe that it is far better both emotionally and financially to prevent stress overwhelm and mental ill health than it is to resolve it.
Contact us to discuss how you can get started.
It’s that switch from problem resolution to focusing on wellbeing, for the better health and productivity of your employees, your business – and you.

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