It’s Time to Link Employee Wellbeing to Productivity


There is a direct association between worker productivity and their mental health and wellbeing. A review conducted by the British Safety Council, aptly named Not just free fruit: Wellbeing at work, examines the recent literature to define wellbeing in workplace contexts and explores the various support offered for staff in British firms.

For this article, we summarise the key findings and recommendations. The report includes a number of case studies that discuss various workplace initiatives. We recommend you take a deep dive into those by downloading the full publication. Wellbeing is an issue moving rapidly up the public policy agenda with businesses appreciating that:

work impacts on individuals’ wellbeing, and individuals’ wellbeing impacts on their work.

Key Areas Where Worker Wellbeing is Affected

The World Health Organisation defines mental health as:

a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.

Fair wages, relationships with line managers and colleagues, job design, degree of responsibility and authority, workload, working hours and opportunities for career development are all vital components of workers’ wellbeing. Problems in these areas can lead to, or exacerbate, ill-health and stress.

The CIPD’s current analysis in their report Health and Well-Being at Work is based on the responses of 4.6 million employees from 1,021 organisations. It reports that 86% of respondents have observed some form of presenteeism (people coming to work when they are unwell) over the last year, increasing from 72% in 2016. The survey also assesses ‘leaveism’: that is, ‘people using allocated time off such as annual leave to work, or if they are unwell, or working outside contracted hours’. 69% of respondents have observed leaveism over the past 12 months. Mental ill health and stress together make up almost half (44%) of long-term absence, overtaking musculoskeletal injuries (6%). Most days lost per year were due to depression (19.1 days).

People cannot perform at their best if they have a mental health issue. The elephant in the room is the way we manage performance and the need to make reasonable adjustment for people with physical OR mental health issues.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Management Standards have been designed to help mitigate stress at work and cover six areas:

  1. Demands – this includes issues such as workload, work patterns and the work environment
  2. Control – how much say the person has in the way they do their work
  3. Support – this includes the encouragement, sponsorship and resources provided by the organisation, line management and colleagues
  4. Relationships – this includes promoting positive working to avoid conflict and dealing with unacceptable behaviour
  5. Role – whether people understand their role within the organisation and whether the organisation ensures that they do not have conflicting roles
  6. Change – how organisational change (large or small) is managed and communicated in the organisation

What Are UK Organisations Doing About the Problem?

In 2016, the CIPD surveyed 1,091 organisations across the UK employing 3.8 million people. The findings showed that 10% of UK organisations had a ‘standalone’ wellbeing strategy in support of their wider organisation strategy. A further 25% had a wellbeing plan/program as part of a wider people strategy. Smaller organisations were more likely to act flexibly on an ad-hoc or individual basis. Encouragingly, only  8% were not doing anything to improve employee health and wellbeing.

30% of employers say that ‘wellbeing strategies are primarily driven by a desire to increase employee engagement’. 23% want ‘to improve organisational culture’. However, the overwhelming evidence is showing that wellbeing programs are not being driven by company boards.

In the CIPD study, other than survey completions, there was little evidence of worker involvement in the creation of wellbeing interventions. Wellbeing interventions must be tailored to workers’ needs and have the support, attention and inclusion of senior management. The key challenge is to engage workers in the initiatives on offer and promote the benefits.

However, there is a helpful guide that we can recommend: Burnout in the Digital Age: How to Avoid Workplace Stress.

Mental Health and Wellbeing Initiatives in UK Organisations

The report lists several mental health and wellbeing initiatives that organisations are using including:

  • Mental health and wellbeing information
  • Training on common mental health conditions (such as depression, anxiety disorders etc.)
  • Resilience, energy or stress management classes or programs
  • Mindfulness classes or programs
  • Massage or relaxation classes or programs
  • Workload or time management training
  • Financial wellbeing courses or programs
  • Employee Assistance Programs
  • Counselling or psychotherapy services
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or other types of psychological therapy
  • Other mental health support – onsite/telephone/mobile app/online
  • Coaching (one-on-one sessions on mental health and wellbeing)
  • Volunteering or charity work

Training is needed for managers to directly support employees to feel open and comfortable in discussing mental health issues. This is in addition to programs that effectively facilitate early intervention practices and support for, and recognition of, depression among employees. Clear transition and referral pathways are needed for employees who need to take time off and for those returning to work.

What Else Can Organisations Do?

Mental health awareness should be a mandatory part of any management training scheme. Effective, compulsory education for line managers provides the first step towards open communication in the workplace. The workforce will be better informed and confident enough to discuss mental health issues resulting in healthier, more productive workers. As well as better informed line managers and better mental health policies, there are other preventative measures that could be of benefit to workers with mental health issues. Resilience or mindfulness training for employees and the use of mental health ‘champions’ or ‘first aiders’ are being recognised as positive ways in which organisations might support mental wellbeing.

Mental health first aid training is generally provided for managers or supervisors and is a great first step to increase mental health literacy and training on appropriate responses when employees reach out and seek help.

Read our article on mental health first aid training.

But what can we do to increase mental health literacy for all other employees so they know when to reach out and seek help for themselves or a co-worker?

Part of an integrated approach to workplace mental health training is including online and mobile-based solutions such as the Tap into Safety Mental Health Literacy Training. Our training is aimed at the employee and helps them to increase their mental health literacy by providing animated stories on workplace stressors that can impact their mental health.

By using the Tap into Safety training, employees are encouraged to seek help. Organisations can also access data to identify staff groups with mental health issues early on.

For businesses investing in workplace mental health, Tap Into Safety Mental Health Training Solution helps by intervening early to support worker mental health through providing relevant and interactive workplace wellbeing training.

Our clients have experienced a 100% increase in help-seeking activities since using the Tap into Safety Mental Health Literacy Training, as part of their wellbeing program. By tackling the stigma head-on and encouraging help-seeking early, organisations can reduce the escalation of serious stress claims.

The psychometric measurement tool included in the training solution is a world-first in its use across organisations. Together with our filters, it enables organisations to pinpoint groups of staff in mental health decline so they can target and tailor their wellbeing education program to support them.

Strategically placing staff trained in mental health within identified groups with declining mental health could start to see an improvement in the mental health of your organisation.

Want to know more? View the video or try a free demo and contact us with any questions.


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