Nurturing mental health - how to protect employee wellbeing


For a long time, mental health issues like anxiety and depression were taboo. For sufferers, this meant keeping silent on the matter, especially if working in more high pressure industries where mental illness was seen as a ‘sign of weakness’. But while there is a growing understanding and acceptance of these mental health challenges, more needs to be done to provide the necessary support.

The UK’s lack of mental health support was severely exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, to say nothing of the ongoing cost-of-living crisis and faltering UK economy. According to Deloitte, the total annual costs of absenteeism, loss of productivity, and labour turnover was an estimated £53-56 billion between 2020 and 2021, a 25% increase on 2019. Tackling this issue is clearly critical not just for the wellbeing of staff, but for employers’ bottom lines too. Deloitte researchers found the average return for employers on mental health investments for employees is £5.30 for every £1 invested – but how exactly can firms step up their support?

Make work-life balance a part of your culture 

Our occupations take up most of our days, and so can have a significant effect on our mental health. If approached unhealthily, such as frequent late nights or continued high stress, employees could suffer with burnout. Mental Health UK defines burnout as “a state of physical and emotional exhaustion” which occurs when employees experience long-term stress in their job or work in a physically or emotionally draining role for a long time.

It’s in an employers’ interest to prevent burnout in their workplace. Employees experiencing burnout are 63% more likely to take a sick day and 2.6 times more likely to leave their current employer, according to Gallup. However, the methods to tackle burnout can be something as simple as encouraging regular breaks and promoting a balanced personal and work life.

This can involve:

Allowing flexible working conditions, such as letting employees adjust their start and finish times, turning a full-time role into a part-time role, or compressed hours, where the same number of hours are worked but in fewer days.

Each employee will have their own preferred way of working and should be helped to find one that suits their lifestyle. Flexible working also makes family responsibilities easier to balance, removing another potential source of stress.

Provide professional support

Occasionally, support needs to go beyond these simpler steps and offer a more professional service. An employee assistance programme offers staff confidential access to experienced mental health counsellors. It will also take into account all aspects of employee well-being, including the financial and the physical. A corporate healthcare trust, such as that offered by Healix, can provide support with money advice, physical health, and mental well-being. They also offer the flexibility necessary to empower employees to discover the solutions they need without being concerned about cost or waiting for an appointment. 

Start talking

It’s important for people to feel safe to open up and discuss when they are feeling overwhelmed, so a critical step towards tackling mental health is simply to establish a culture where openness is encouraged.

To promote a feeling of psychological safety, employers need to: 

Create support systems such as employee resource groups, which are a great way to help employees find those dealing with similar situations.


Implementing the steps above to foster a culture of support, trust, and understanding can help employers ensure their people are able to bring their best and most productive selves to work, while keeping turnover to a minimum.

There are many methods employers can implement to provide support for employees, and it is critical that managers play an active role by taking steps to guide and support employees facing difficulty if their company is going to succeed. The one thing to remember above all though, is that employee mental health support is vital – don’t be tempted to treat it as a secondary concern.

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