Stuart Gentle Publisher at Onrec

Five ways to make employee mental wellbeing a business priority all year round

Emma Capper, UK Wellbeing Leader, Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing

One in four people in England will experience a mental health problem each year, and one in six will report a common mental health problem (like anxiety and depression) in any given week[i].

Mental health issues have been rising in recent years, and the Mental Health Foundation[ii] expects this to continue due to the cost-of-living crisis, poverty, and financial stress.  Also, the impact of the work environment on people’s mental health cannot be underestimated. Factors including increased pressure, tight deadlines, and poor work-life balance can negatively affect employee mental wellbeing.

The latest CIPD’s Health and Wellbeing at Work report highlights that sickness absence rates have reached a decade-high, with one in five workers taking time off due to poor mental health caused by work-related stress[iii].

To address these issues proactively and create a supportive and nurturing work environment requires preventative action, as well as providing targeted support and ensuring employees know how to access this.

Here are five ways employers can create a mentally healthy work environment all year round:

  1. Break down any stigmas around mental health.

Cultivate an environment where employees feel comfortable discussing mental health. This should start with senior management championing mental health initiatives, sharing personal stories, and being mindful of the impact of additional workloads or pressure on employees. Encourage open communication, listen to employee feedback through surveys, and take action to address concerns.

  1. Develop robust mental health policies.

Evaluate existing policies to check if they are still fit for purpose. This includes understanding how effectively they tackle work-related causes of mental health; the support available, and how policies are communicated.  Aligning policies to issues is essential, so understanding the challenges workers face and tailoring support is vital.

  1. Education for all.

Line managers are the first line of defense in spotting poor mental health, so it’s important to provide them with mental health training. They also need to know how to start a conversation sensitively with an employee, what tools and support are available and how to direct employees to access these. Also, educate employees on the stress factors that affect mental health and coping strategies they can use.  This will enable them to better manage their own stress and spot signs of stress in others too.


  1. Focus on prevention, rather than cure.

Focus on prevention rather than cure. This can be done by identifying and addressing factors contributing to poor mental health and putting measures in place including tools and resources to promote good mental health, such as mindfulness practices, relaxation techniques, and offering flexible work arrangements.

  1. Create mental wellbeing pathways.

Developing care pathways for mental wellbeing is recommended to give employees access to appropriate support services and treatment options. This should start with preventative measures and take employees on a journey with various touchpoints so they can easily identify issues and access support and referrals. This will include wellbeing benefits, insurances, and any value-added benefits such as access to EAPs. Having a clear pathway in front of people at the right time will ensure they are not overwhelmed and can easily find support aligned to their needs.

To conclude

There are ways for employers to create a positive workplace culture that values and supports employee mental health all year-round – from having open conversations to break down stigmas through to education, training and ensuring support services are available.  

Companies can also tie in with national awareness days like Mental Health Awareness Week and leverage their campaign to boost employee engagement in mental wellbeing initiatives.

This year the Mental Health Foundation has the theme of “Movement: Moving more for our mental health”. They highlight that movement is essential for good mental health, but many people struggle to move enough. Here are five steps employers can take today to change this.

Investing in mental health initiatives not only benefits employees' wellbeing but contributes to a more engaged and resilient workforce and enhanced business performance. As we strive for healthier workplaces, let's commit to making mental health a priority every day.