Wellbeing programmes that focus on staff engagement neglect a need to address mental health

The mental health of employees, especially those working within high pressured working environments are the number one concerns for UK CEOs. Nearly three quarters (73 percent) of respondents to the annual wellbeing report ‘Employee Wellbeing Research 2018’ from Reward & Employee Benefits Association (REBA) in association with Punter Southall Health & Protection, admitted that high pressure working environments are now the biggest threat to wellbeing. Just a third (34 percent) of respondents provide mental health training for line managers, and despite a similar percentage (35 percent) planning to introduce this training in the next 12 months, one in six (14.9 percent) say they have no plans to introduce this sort of training. Although mental health in the workplace is the top priority for almost three in five (60 percent) CEOs in the UK and the area of employee wellbeing with which their Board is most concerned, currently, the key drivers of wellbeing strategies are to improve engagement and culture. Well over a quarter (30 percent) of respondents said wellbeing strategies are primarily driven by a desire to increase employee engagement and 23 percent to improve organisational culture.

Other concerns include employees’ physical inactivity (55 percent) and managing the wellbeing of an ageing workforce (36 percent). Most employee wellbeing strategies address physical activity (85 percent), health and safety in the workplace (85 percent) and mental health (84 percent), while nearly three-quarters (73 percent) address work-life balance and over two thirds (69 percent) cover nutrition and healthy eating.

But one striking issue is that programmes are not being driven by the Board. Less than one in ten (8 percent) say the Board actively drives the organisation’s wellbeing agenda and one in twenty (5 percent) say their Board has little or no interest in employee wellbeing.

John Dean, Chief Commercial Officer at Punter Southall Health & Protection said, “Whereas in previous years, few  talked openly about mental health, it is now the top concern of UK employers. There is also a clear recognition that high pressured working environments put employees’ physical and mental health at risk.

“While there is a positive increase in companies adopting wellbeing programmes year on year, few strategies are being driven by the Board and this is concerning. For wellbeing programmes to succeed, it is essential they are integrated into the business strategy and prioritised by the board,” adds Mr Dean.

Debi O’Donovan, Director at the Reward & Employee Benefits Association said, “In a world of rapid change impacting the way we work and the skills employees need, a focus on resilience and wellbeing is a vital strategy for employers which want to run successful organisations. So, since our first research into employee wellbeing in 2016, it is encouraging to see the appetite for implementing effective wellbeing strategies continue to grow.

“The national focus on mental health is reflected in the survey results. Ensuring that the mental wellbeing of employees is safeguarded must be a priority and it is encouraging to see that over 80 percent of respondents highlighted this as an area that they will focus on. However, we would like to see stronger leadership come from boards, because where we see wellbeing led from the top we also see the most impressive results for both employees and their organisations.”