While discussions around Brexit took centre stage last week, it was also a significant week for awareness building in mental health, including mental health in the workplace. On Tuesday, the mental health charity Mind hosted their inaugural Workplace Wellbeing Index Awards, an event recognising and celebrating employers’ commitment to prioritising mental health at work. Two days later the ‘Heads Together’ campaign, aimed at championing awareness and addressing the stigma around mental health, launched a series of short films featuring celebrities and ordinary people describing life-changing conversations about their mental health.1 These events resonated strongly with us, as this week we are launching our new report At a tipping point? Workplace mental health and wellbeing. This week’s blog, by our colleague Elizabeth Hampson, explains the motivation behind our report and highlights some of its main findings.
At a tipping point?
From June 2013 to May 2016 Mind was one of Deloitte’s charity partners, where a key focus of our support was using our skills and capabilities to support the organisations development and impact. We were privileged to work with Mind’s workplace wellbeing team during this period, helping them to develop the idea for the Workplace Wellbeing Index.2 I was therefore delighted to be in the audience for the first awards and to hear the inspirational personal stories about mental health in the workplace and how employers are raising awareness around the UK. Deloitte was one of 30 companies who took part in the inaugural index.3
Over the past 18 months we have been researching the issue of workplace mental health wellbeing. The impetus for our report was the insight we gained in working with Mind and their workplace wellbeing team, and in interviewing many organisations around the UK on their workplace wellbeing strategies. We were also influenced by the insights we have gained from working with many occupational and corporate health providers over the past five years. This experience has given us a broad overview and differentiated perspective on workplace mental health and wellbeing.
In curating all of these insights into our report, we believe that employer and employee attitudes to mental health are changing and that this trend in employers’ attitude to workplace mental health and wellbeing is similar to that of the corporate responsibility movement since the mid-1990s, when serious momentum gathered pace and corporate responsibility reporting moved to being an integral part of companies business operations. Indeed, we believe that workplace mental wellbeing is at a tipping point, and that the rate of change in how employers see mental health and wellbeing will continue to accelerate.4
Our report presents a compelling case for improving the profile given to employee mental health and wellbeing, including the social benefits that will accrue from a greater priority given to mental health by employers. By investing in improved support for employee mental health, we believe that the employee gains, the employer gains and the economy gains. We expect that by 2025 employee mental wellbeing will be a significantly more common theme in corporate reporting.
The focus on mental health in the media over the past week provides additional encouragement and support for our conclusions. However, to make this a reality our report calls for a number of collective actions for stakeholders:
- for employers, it is important to raise the priority given to mental health and wellbeing in order to move towards a culture which proactively manages mental wellbeing. This could be through signing corporate pledges or appointing wellbeing leads. It is also important to monitor and take stock of performance using tools to understand relative position. This also allows organisations to track and promote the successes of relevant initiatives, such as mental health training for managers
- for employees, it is important to be actively engaged in your own health and wellbeing and that of your colleagues. That means learning about your own mental health, involvement in workplace programmes and making efforts to address stigma by sharing personal experiences and stories. It also means being aware of the support available for yourself or colleagues
- more broadly, society and the state should encourage collaboration with corporate employers to improve workplace mental health by investing in research and developing the evidence base. It also means forming strategic partnerships with other stakeholders to spread best practice, and supporting workplace initiatives already in place. Policymakers also need to focus on policies that provide aligned incentives to encourage companies to take charge of employees’ mental health and wellbeing.
And for those wondering how Deloitte fared in this year’s Mind Index, we were delighted to achieve a silver award.5 While this is a positive endorsement of the initiatives we have put in place, we recognise that the journey continues for Deloitte, as it does is for other employers, employees and society as a whole. Deloitte expects to participate in the index again next year, to maintain the internal momentum and ensure that workplace mental health and wellbeing continues to have a prominent role.
1 ‘Heads Together’ is a coalition of eight mental health charities organised from Kensington Palace, engaged in in tackling stigma, raising awareness, and providing help for people with mental health challenges. The campaign aims to change the national conversation on mental health and wellbeing. See also: https://www.headstogether.org.uk/oktosay/