Mental Health at Work: much remains to be done

Tony Wood, Partner and UK Managing Director at Mercer Marsh Benefits, says the results from the latest Mental Health at Work report show progress is being made but there’s still a long way to go

Three years ago, when we launched the first Business in the Community Mental Health at Work report, we set ambitious targets for employers. Our aim was to transform the conversation about mental health in the workplace, inspire senior leaders to truly connect with all their staff, and equip line managers with the skills to manage mental health effectively.

We have made progress, but we still have a long way to go. That’s how I would describe the results of our latest survey of UK employees. All the important indicators are moving in the right direction. More people feel able to talk about their mental health at work. More managers are willing and able to have difficult conversations about mental health. More organisations are ready to make the adjustments needed to help people with mental health issues, just as they would with physical health issues.

Despite this good news, we are all acutely aware of the scale of the challenge before us. Much remains to be done. Too many people still feel unable to share their concerns with colleagues or their line manager. Many employees are frustrated by their organisation’s reluctance to put in place the support they feel will help them manage their condition. Shockingly, some face demotion or even dismissal simply for being honest and open about their mental health.

The UK is more vibrant and diverse than ever, and the workplace is changing, too. Organisations will prosper if they embrace the rich mix of age, gender, race and sexual orientation that represents modern Britain. The challenge for employers is to foster a culture where every person can thrive and make the fullest contribution. This means celebrating employees’ successes, but also standing by them when life gets tough. And life is getting tougher. The Mental Health at Work report shows that financial worries and job instability have become part of daily life for employees; even for many in apparently good positions on higher salaries. Pay has not kept up with the cost of living, and more people feel they have no control over their finances.

These are the moments when a responsible employer stands above the rest. While no organisation is immune to financial pressure, it is critical to foster an inclusive and supportive culture of respect and trust. This provides the most solid foundation for any approach to mental health and wellbeing. As always, doing the right thing for your people is also doing the right thing for your business.

This report has important learnings for all organisations. We call on all employers to build on the significant contribution they already make to the nation’s mental health and wellbeing.