Why should business leaders care about mental health?

According to Deloitte, the impact of poor mental health at work costs UK employers up to £45 billion annually. 

Yet for every £1 spent on mental health and wellbeing initiatives, a net ROI of £5 is reported.

The business case writes itself. 

However, many business leaders still fail to grasp the importance of wellbeing and are left scratching their heads when their staff leave, or the business isn’t viewed as a desirable employer.

Addressing and managing mental health on behalf of your workforce is about recognising each employee’s unique sets of experiences and challenges. 

It’s about each and every one of their emotions (and yours…) Sometimes rational. Sometimes seemingly irrational. 

Mental health is a fragile, elusive and intangible sense of being that can never and should never be ignored. 

Wellbeing initiatives are NOT about corporate spiel. They definitely shouldn’t be about being ‘seen’ to do the right thing in order to achieve a company goal. 

As business leaders, we must steer away from ‘tick-box’ tasks and move towards meaningful conversation, open dialogue and authentic leadership.

How does mental health impact a business’s hiring plans?

As outlined above, businesses are losing an exponential amount of money due to employee’s poor mental health. And according to APSCo, all professional sectors are suffering from a skills shortage.

It’s clear from APSCo’s extensive research that it continues to be a candidate-led market. And we really don’t need to explain what the landscape looks like if you hire in any quantity in the leisure, hospitality or broader blue-collar space… 

It’s tough. 

Staffing providers reported a year on year sales revenue increase of 170% on permanent hiring in May alone and forecast to continue to grow significantly.

Factors such as Brexit and the resulting immigration policy, coupled with changes in the IR35 contract legislation have all added to the pressure. 

We all know recruitment isn’t cheap. We’re sure you have a good handle on the cost per hire in your organisation. Glassdoor gives a figure of just £3,000 per hire which seems extremely low… (the first year’s cost is clearly going to be many times that!) 

What does mental health mean for job-seekers?

We all know that recruiting the best talent (and avoiding making the wrong hire) is challenging, expensive and hugely competitive. It’s never been tougher than it is right now. 

What’s more, candidates are being much more discerning about how they search for their next role. 

According to LinkedIn, 75% of candidates research a company online before applying for a job, researching their social media channels, company website and reviews.

Your future talent is also being much more judicious about what your organisation stands for and what your approach to life at work looks like as a whole. 

They need clarity on your business’s approach to wellbeing; things that affect the way they feel about themselves, their work and their purpose within your organisation. 

How are other businesses supporting their employees’ wellbeing needs?

There’s been a raft of well publicised articles over the last year about different organisations’ approaches to wellbeing. None more so than flexible working…. 

Here’s a selection of some of the approaches being adopted by 5 high-profile businesses:

  1. Apple –  have opted for a widespread return to the office. Employees are expected to be in the office at least 3 days a week from September. Employees have launched a campaign pushing back against the CEO and stating that “Without the inclusivity that flexibility brings, many of us feel we have to choose between either a combination of our families, our wellbeing, and being empowered to do our best work, or being a part of Apple”.
  2. Twitter – want staff to work partly in the office and partly at home. They are advocating some face to face collaboration and networking (because it’s good for the soul) but only when it is safe.
  3. Google – are asking their employees to apply to work from home if the days add up to more than 14 per year. This change is due to come in from 1st September. 
  4. Bumble – recently closed their office for a week to allow their staff to de-stress following a stock market debut and rapid growth in user numbers. Employees were to “switch off and focus on themselves.” 
  5. Deloitte – have opted for a ‘pick and choose’ approach where all 20,000 employees can choose how often they come into the office, if at all. This stance has been adopted to support their employees from a wellbeing perspective. 

Clearly, one size does not fit all when it comes to flexible working or wellbeing. However, if you put yourself in the shoes of an employee, which business would you want to work for?

What does wellbeing look like for your business?

So where on earth do you start with this?

Again, clearly there’s not a universal approach that can be rolled out.

What’s clear is that you need to authentically convey how your business actually operates – we cannot stress this point enough. 

You only need to look at the recent example where ex-Brewdog staff shamed their employer for creating a culture of fear and mis-selling their organisation to prospective talent.

This stuff has an impact. 

What to consider when developing your wellbeing approach:

  • Ensure that your organisation’s purpose and values are clearly articulated. They need to be authentic, believable and trustworthy
  • If you aren’t clear on the above, get clear with your leaders and ask yourselves “what kind of culture do we want to create here?” 
  • Think less corporate shine and more individual stories and personas. Honour the actual lived experiences in your business – not a raft of initiatives that you’ve adopted from other organisations that are totally different to yours.
  • Articulate your purpose and values on your careers page, in your job adverts, and your social media channels
  • Include a comprehensive FAQ section that answers the questions candidates are too shy to ask at interview e.g. “how do you support my wellbeing?” or “how do you help me deal with stress?” or “how do you help me manage my workload?”
  • Set up a chatbot or feedback system so that the questions candidates ask (particularly the ones you hadn’t thought of) can be captured, considered and answered
  • Be totally honest. If your approach is more like Apple’s, say so. Tell candidates the ‘bad stuff’ about working at your organisation. You want candidates to self select IN as much as self-select OUT to save strain on your recruiting teams and managers
  • Those that want to work in your environment, will be the ones that stay. 

Closing thoughts…

Start with you. 

A recent survey by the Happiness Index revealed that HR professionals were found to be less happy overall than people generally. While The Happiness Index recorded a benchmark of 7.7, HR professionals rated their overall happiness at work at 6.8 on average.

So, as the saying goes, put your own oxygen mask on first and ensure you are genuinely and authentically the torch bearer internally and externally for mental health and wellbeing in your organisation.

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Mark Barnicoat Headshot

Written by , Managing Partner

Mark Barnicoat is the Managing Partner of Peeq; a specialist HR recruitment consultancy based in the South East of England. With over 20 years HR recruitment experience, Mark partners with CEOs and business leaders to help them make influential HR hires for their organisations. Mark has recruited HR talent for many of the world's most reputable brands including Sainsburys, Johnson and Johnson, Pepsi, BBC, Capgemini, whilst also supporting growth organisations like Transferwise and Gocardless scale their People functions.

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