Why a happy, healthy workforce is good for business

Nick Foster, HR Director at Exertis, discusses the benefits of promoting positive mental health and why the wellbeing of the distributor’s employees is at the top of its agenda.

The importance of mental wellbeing both in and out of the workplace is rightly gaining more attention. The Department of Health estimates that one in four of us will experience some form of mental ill health during our lives. That could range from anxiety, stress and depression to more serious conditions. These can occur as a reaction to events or experiences at home or at work or perhaps a combination of both.

It’s important to recognise that from time to time employees will go through some stressful periods in their life. As an employer, it’s important to ensure that conditions in the workplace reduce the incidence and negative impact of mental ill health, and to take steps to promote positive mental health and provide the necessary support.

This has clear benefits in terms of staff performance and productivity, attendance levels, recruitment and retention as well as helping to provide customer satisfaction.

The government-commissioned Thriving at Work report estimated that the cost of poor mental health to UK business is between £33 billion and £42 billion a year. It set out the following six “Core Standards” designed to help employers of all sizes to improve the mental wellbeing of employees:

1. Produce, implement and communicate a mental health at work plan that promotes good mental health of all employees and outlines the support available for those who may need it.

2. Develop mental health awareness among employees by making information, tools and support accessible.

3. Encourage open conversations about mental health and the support available when employees are struggling, during the recruitment process and at regular intervals throughout employment, offer appropriate workplace adjustments to employees.

4. Provide employees with good working conditions and ensure they have a healthy work life balance and opportunities for development.

5. Promote effective people management to ensure all employees have a regular conversation about their health and wellbeing with their line manager, supervisor or organisational leader. Train and support line managers and supervisors in effective management practices.

6. Routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing by understanding available data, talking to employees, and understanding risk factors.

In addition, a Howden Employee Wellbeing Research 2018 report highlighted that mental wellbeing was the number one concern for UK employers with 60% of UK chief executives stating that mental health is the area of wellbeing they are most concerned about.

At Exertis, the wellbeing of our employees is at the top of our agenda. We want Exertis to be a great place for our employees to work and we also want to realise the value of our talented people by helping them to reach their full potential. A happy, healthy workforce is clearly good for our employees as well as our business.

It’s also great to see that mental health is being spoken about more openly. We have trained 25 Mental Health First Aiders (MHFA) around the business as part of our initiative to improve mental health awareness and to encourage conversation about the support available. It is something close to my heart and, as an employer, we want to be supportive and enable any employees suffering from mental health to get them back to good health as soon as possible.

The MHFA initiative is part of a wider programme of support in the workplace for Exertis employees. We also offer a complimentary Employee Assistance Programme through MetLife who provide an early intervention and rehabilitation service, which aims to help employees stay at work or return to work after a period of absence due to illness or injury, and also through Health Assured who provide a number of wellbeing services.

We have also enhanced our maternity, paternity and shared parental leave policy, provided our employees with the option to purchase additional holiday and promoted the government’s Cycle to Work Scheme.

We believe that promoting a caring culture, striking the right balance between work and home life and supporting our employees when needed are great investments that can also provide tangible results. It’s no coincidence that we have been able to reduce mental health absence by 11% and overall absence by 26%. Our employees are a key differentiator and they deserve the best support we can provide throughout their careers.

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