Nearly half of all employees (48%) had no wellbeing check-in from their employer in the past year, finds new research among 2,000 workers. The data released by Mental Health First Aid England to mark My Whole Self Day, 18 March 2022, reveals that double the number of employees report that their workplace had failed to check-in on their wellbeing over the past year (48% up from 25% in 2021).
The last 12 months of the pandemic has seen increased reports of mental ill health yet only 27% report receiving a wellbeing check-in from their employer monthly or more. This is less than half the number of workers who reported they had a wellbeing check-in, at least once a month, last year (60%).
Research from the Mental Health Foundation and LSE suggests that mental health problems cost the UK economy at least £118 billion a year. This, coupled with the demands of the pandemic and the many changes to our ways of working over this period, means that now is the time for employers to step up their efforts to better support staff and retain talent.
As more people return to the workplace, employers have the opportunity to revisit their policies to help fuel productivity, reduce sick days, increase retention, and attract new talent. The ONS reports the number of people solely working from home is declining. The return to workplaces gives organisations the chance to change things for the better, yet with hybrid looking to establish itself as the new normal, there won’t be a one size fits all solution.
Employers should capitalise on the fact that half of employees surveyed felt most comfortable talking about their mental health face-to-face (47%). They will also need to consider the arrangements needed for remote staff and the one in ten who prefer discussions over Zoom, phone, or WhatsApp (13%).
When asked what initiatives would support their mental health, fully flexible working came out on top for employees. 39% of employers agreed this would have a positive impact on their wellbeing – yet only 20% of people said this was currently on offer at their workplace.
Despite variable efforts from employers, the pandemic has brought some benefits to our workplace wellbeing. Working from home may have given us more insight into each other’s lives, as one in four of us feel we can always bring our whole self to work (24%). This is an increase from only 16% of people who felt they could always be their whole self at work pre-pandemic. More of us also feel more comfortable discussing our workplace mental health, with a third of people (32%) saying they are more comfortable doing so since the pandemic.
Employers need to make the most of these pandemic silver linings and step up their approach. The highest performing workplaces are supportive and inclusive. By putting diversity and inclusion at the centre of mental health and wellbeing, employers can create a culture where people can bring their whole self to work. Doing so, helps people to feel more engaged, to think more boldly, find common ground, and work more effectively together. Regular wellbeing check-ins and ensuring managers have the training and resources they need to support their teams including trained Mental Health First Aiders can help achieve this.
As part of the My Whole Self campaign, Mental Health First Aid England has developed a suite of free resources to help empower organisations of all sizes to support their staff with regular wellbeing check-ins.
Simon Blake, Chief Executive of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England said: “Employers have really stepped up their understanding of supporting mental health during the pandemic. This is great news and reflected in a range of exciting initiatives and approaches. These must be based on strong foundations of care, sustained over time. Our survey showed that 48% of employees were not receiving regular wellbeing check-ins. This percentage is up, with only 25% of people reporting this a year ago.
If we get the basics right, we can build workplaces where wellbeing and productivity fuel each other. That is why we are encouraging all employers to adopt wellbeing check-ins, as part of a comprehensive strategy. Our free My Whole Self resources offer practical advice to deliver these wellbeing check-ins and wider guidance on improving workplace culture”.