Mental health provision in the workplace is better than ever

A focus on mental health provision in the workplace has never been better according to data provided in the CIPDs Health and Wellbeing at work report for 2021. 

The report which gained responses from 668 professionals and senior HR leaders from the public and private sectors in the UK found that  84% of employers have increased their focus on looking after employees mental health in response to Covid-19. 

Due to the pandemic and an increase in working from home, organisations have realised the crucial need to identify and manage wider risks to peoples health. 

Up from 58% in 2020, this year 77% of respondents believe their organisation actively promotes good mental wellbeing.

MENTAL HEALTH: Due to the pandemic organisations have realised the need to promote good mental wellbeing

In order to promote good mental wellbeing organisations are using a multitude of methods. 

Over half of the organisations have increased employee wellbeing support services, while just over a third are focusing more on providing virtual health services.

More than four-fifths are using employee assistance programmes, which has increased from just under two-thirds in last year.

Findings from the CIPDs report also show a substantial increase in organisations taking a preventative approach to managing stress. 

This includes using staff surveys or focus groups to identify the causes of stress or by carrying out stress risk assessments/audits and providing training, particularly to build personal resilience.

MENTAL HEALTH: The methods used by organisations to support employees mental health

Ryan Fuller, an employee of eco-friendly grocery brand Bother commented: “To help out with mental health wellbeing, we have daily mindfulness drop in sessions, anyone can go “offline” for a period of time if they need a break from endless video calls and we’ve even done a virtual chocolate tasting. 

“Bother is a start-up that only launched last year so things have been pretty manic, but being trusted to take time away to get back on the wagon has been invaluable for my mental health.”

Despite the reports overall conclusions, only 54% of employees agreed or strongly agreed that their organisations have been effective at identifying and managing the mental health risks arising from COVID-19, with 18% disagreeing or strongly disagreeing. 

MENTAL HEALTH: Despite an increased focus on mental health, a significant percentage believe their organisations are unable to identify mental health risks

Data from the CIPDs 2019 health and wellbeing at work report found that only 9% of organisations have a standalone mental health policy for employees. 

This data suggests that although organisations have improved on mental health provisions in the workplace, when preventing and identifying risks of deteriorating mental health, they are less effective. 

Zoe Watson, is a Glaswegian based in London who has worked as a GP in the NHS for 16 years. 

When asked about mental health provision for NHS staff, she said: “I’ve worked in both NHS and private health care settings. My experience with a private digital healthcare company was horrifying.  

“The staff wellbeing programme was superficial and disingenuous, and when I had a genuine mental health crisis whilst working there, they grossly mishandled it.  

“Working for the NHS for 16 years, I have never had access to a consistent programme which looks after my mental and physical wellbeing at work.

“You might occasionally get a ‘managing stress at work’ seminar once a year with some soggy sandwiches and cold coffee, but nothing which is there as a consistent, daily support to help you with the challenges that working in a caring profession can pose.”

In response to the CIPDs report and how the pandemic has effected workplace mental health provision Watson commented: “I’d love to agree and say it has improved awareness and understanding- but I think that very much depends on the company you’re working for!

“I think there is still a long way to go for workplaces to create genuinely supportive and understanding environments for people to talk openly about their mental health and the complex interaction that our working life has with our mental health.”

In order to change this Watson has developed Wellbeing Wellgood a social enterprise wellbeing programme which centres around three core values: creativity, curiosity and kindness.

This tiered membership programme aims to provide wellbeing support to mainly NHS and key workers as well as providing live creative workshops, health panel discussions and a customisable seasonal gift box. 

The pandemic has undoubtedly increased organisations awareness of employees mental health within the workplace, and this is only bound to continue. 

However, beyond the data change is relatively slow and some larger organisations, including the NHS, are not providing the level of provisions employees currently need. 

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