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Employers are hungry for knowledge about workplace mental health and wellbeing strategies

8th March, 2018


The results are in. Thanks to everyone who responded to the Mad World Workplace Wellbeing Survey #1. We were bowled over by the breadth of responses we received  – from the UK and further afield, from both the private and public sectors, ranging from FTSE 100 companies to SMEs, with a few self-employed too.

The findings provide a valuable snapshot of the state of workplace wellbeing for us to share.

In the last newsletter we invited our community to complete the Mad World Workplace Wellbeing Survey #1. Our aim: to ensure the needs of our audience are at the heart of Mad World’s agenda. In particular we wanted to understand the key takeaways attendees would like to gain from the Mad World event which will be taking place on 9 October in London.

The insights provided have certainly achieved these goals. Stepping back, they also give a useful glimpse of the bigger picture.

While information needs are diverse, what’s clear above everything else is the hunger for knowledge about how to develop and implement effective mental health in the workplace strategies.

Who’s responsible?

We’ve heard high-profile CEOs, such as António Horta-Osório from Lloyds Banking Group speak out about how important it is that initiatives to support mental health and wellbeing should be driven from the top. So it’s not surprising that 23% of respondents highlighted C-Suite involvement, from Chief Medical Officer to Chief Operating Officer via Chief Financial Officer and Chief People Officer. Over half of these mentioned the responsibility of the CEO.

The role of HR also figured significantly, with 30% referencing the responsibility of either the HR Director or the HR Manager. Head of Wellbeing, Director of Occupational Health, Director of Health and Safety and Mental Health Leader were also mentioned by almost a quarter of respondents.

Notably, Employee Engagement and Internal Communications were two of the least referenced roles, along with Corporate and Social Responsibility.

Perhaps the most surprising insights came from the ‘other’ category. These reflect the very different stages respondents are at when it comes to implementing mental health and wellbeing strategies in the workplace.

Here responses ranged from the blunt “nobody” to the perceptive “everyone is responsible at some level”, from the simple “me, I work for myself” to the sophisticated “cross-functional self-organised mental health group”.

As more employers wake up to the need to support mental health in the workplace, questions start to arise around where ownership of these initiatives should sit within an organisation. Can HR drive mental health initiatives when they are also responsible for performance appraisals? Should trained clinicians be in charge?

Areas of most interest

We asked respondents to prioritise suggested discussion topics.

As well as a keen interest in understanding how to get started and how to make the business case for mental health in the workplace, just short of 70% of respondents indicated a desire to understand how mental health strategies should link engagement, wellness and happiness.

Interestingly, while only 5% of respondents pointed to the responsibility of Employee Engagement or Internal Communications when it comes to mental health and wellbeing strategies, almost 60% highlighted the need to learn about engagement strategies that work in the multigenerational workplace.

Two other insights that stood out were interest in understanding both how employee assistance programmes (EAPs) can support mental health and how mental wellbeing strategies link to talent attraction and retention.

More interesting insights were divulged when respondents were given the chance to elaborate.

We asked which three takeaways people would like to gain from attending the Mad World conference and exhibition. Answers were far ranging, from “an actionable road map for overcoming stigma” to “a spark to make the business take notice and action”, “knowledge of best practice” “where to find help rolling out a strategy”, “understanding what I have to do to avoid being sued” and “the feeling of being part of something good”.

It was striking that the need to understand how to encourage engagement, from board level to frontline staff – particularly when it comes to sceptical employees – was reiterated. Perhaps it’s hardly surprising that organisations are struggling with engagement if, as suggested previously, employee engagement and internal communications functions are seen to have less responsibility for mental health and wellbeing strategies in the workplace.

Primed for action?

Thanks to high-profile campaigns, such as the Royals’ Heads Together campaign, stories about personal experiences and the far-reaching work of charities and employer networks, employees are increasingly feeling able to talk about their mental health. At the same time, employers are becoming more and more aware of their responsibility to support and promote mental wellbeing.

While this is undoubtedly a positive step in the right direction, the findings of the Mad World Workplace Wellbeing Survey #1 point to a chasm between the recognition that something needs to be done and an understanding of how to take effective action.

Organisations such as Mind and Business in the Community (BITC), to name just two, are doing much to close this gap.

By providing a live forum that enables employers to share insights and experiences in real-time, Mad World will also play a key role in responding to this need.

Author: Claire Farrow, Conference Director, Mad World

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