Placing employee wellbeing atop of the corporate agenda

The theme for this year’s World Mental Health Day is ‘make mental health and wellbeing for all a global priority’. This applies to all aspects of our lives including our workplaces and, as such, it is time that employers refocused their attention on the wellbeing of their workforce. In recent years, awareness and traction around mental health in the workplace have certainly grown, however, there is still much work to be done.

Terry Storrar, Managing Director, Leaseweb UK, highlights, ”that in many cases there is still a shortfall in the type of support that employers provide – the Deloitte UK Mental Health Report 2022 found that one-third of people expected or would have liked more mental health support from their employer”.

Storrar adds: “One of the key dynamics to improve on is for workplaces to put in place proactive support for employee mental health. According to the CIPD, 36 per cent of companies have reactive support in place; but this does not invest upfront in wellbeing that can help prevent mental health issues”.

How can employers offer support?

It can be unclear what kind of path to follow in terms of what resources and tools to offer as part of a mental health support plan. Marco Fanizzi, SVP & GM at Commvault International, shares the importance of taking employee feedback onboard when thinking about how they can be best supported. “We are having conversations, listening and assessing to find out what an individual's realigned values are. We have introduced proactive measures by designating four mental wellbeing days for all employees globally, in addition to regular leave”.

In addition to having and facilitating two-way communication with the workforce, offering benefits, such as hybrid working, can also make a positive impact. Jen Lawrence, Chief People Officer at Tax Systems, emphasises, “flexible working can significantly improve employees’ mental health. For this reason, it is ingrained in our culture, and we ensure that our employees make full use of it”.

She expands, “we understand everyone has their own lives, and all experience stress differently, so allowing employees to go to that afternoon gym class, meet their friends at lunch, or walk their dog, can provide them with a much-needed break from their desk. By trusting our team, and not asking for justification for their work hours, our employees are happy, motivated, and committed.”

Being mindful of the added strain people are under

Different jobs come with different pressures and the tech industry is no exception as Joanna Leach, Chief People Officer at HelpSystems, notes. “Burnout amongst workers is common in fast-paced industries that are constantly evolving. Our industry is no exception, with research suggesting as many as 51% of cybersecurity professionals have experienced extreme stress or burnout during the last 12 months. Employers need to provide the right environment and support to keep workers both physically and mentally healthy”.

“The industry isn’t going to slow down anytime soon, but together we can implement meaningful and impactful initiatives that will slowly but surely improve our collective wellbeing”, advises Leach at HelpSystems.

However, burnout isn’t the only challenge the workforce will have to contend with. Dave Birchall, Chief People Officer at Node4, predicts that “everyone is having to tighten their belts with costs rising at unprecedented rates. This can have a significant impact on mental health, with 40% of people reporting poorer mental health when their financial situation worsens”.

Hugh Scantlebury, CEO and Founder of Aqilla, shares what employees can do to help alleviate some of this pressure. “While our software doesn’t deal with these issues directly, it does automate and simplify some of the essential finance tasks — making life easier and creating a better work/life balance by helping to deal with the month-end stresses faced by finance teams. But thinking more widely, marking mental health day provides a good excuse to talk about any issues that we might face as employees, colleagues, family members or friends”.

What’s good for the individual is good for the whole business

Organisations must remember that employee wellbeing is linked to productivity levels, which is what business growth and profitability rely upon. Gillian Mahon, Chief People and Places Officer at Totalmobile, asserts “there are multiple ways to increase productivity and also prioritise your employee’s wellbeing. For example, businesses can improve their employees’ quality of life both in and outside of work by implementing hybrid or flexible working policies”.

She backs her argument up with “data from the 2021 Census that revealed that 85% of employees currently working from home wanted to have a hybrid approach in the future where they can work both from home and in the office. The findings also showed that ‘improved staff wellbeing’ was the main reason for businesses planning to make remote working a permanent part of their company policies”.

When offering flexible working, employers must make a concerted effort to ensure their employees' needs are being met. Just because they are not in the office doesn’t mean they are ‘out of sight, out of mind’. Richard Guy, County Sales Manager at Ergotron, states, “ A key first step is to ensure that employers are providing a safe, comfortable and productive working environment - whether at home, in the office or in a third space”.

He explains, “an ergonomic office set-up will support workers’ posture and enable them to work efficiently. Other initiatives should include regular check-ins from line managers to manage workloads, and health-based benefits such as company wide mentor schemes or medical insurance”.

Ultimately, recognising mental health as a priority will require a collaborative effort. It is only by working together that issues like burnout and workplace stress can be resolved across all industries. Samantha Humphries, Head of Security Strategy EMEA at Exabeam, concludes, “fostering a collaborative culture around cybersecurity can only be possible if everyone commits to learning,

even the most experienced and senior cybersecurity professionals. They need to be active and engage with others because their leadership is what will drive the community forward and inspire the next generation of security-conscious professionals”.

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