IOSH 2016: Fostering a mentally healthy workforce

21 Jun 2016

Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at Mind, gave a presentation to IOSH Conference delegates today on ‘the business case for tackling mental health issues’. Here, she talks about how organisations now recognise that they are only as strong as their people…

Over the past few years, employee wellbeing has been rising up the agenda for employers in the UK. A key aspect of this has been, and is, the mental health of staff.

The way we work is changing and in-demand skills such as teamwork, collaboration, joint problem solving, flexible working, resilience-building and staff development all require employees who are mentally healthy, resilient, motivated and focused. Linked to this are shifts in the views and aspirations of employees. As indicated in Deloitte’s 2014 Millennial Survey, Millennials (those born in the 1980s and 1990s), have shown very different preferences to their predecessors when it comes to workplace culture, wellbeing and self-development. Millennials prioritise a healthy work life balance and a positive workplace culture, and are more likely to turn their back on the business that trained them if these needs are not met (1). 

An increasing number of organisations, small and large, now recognise that they are only as strong as their people.  They depend on having a healthy and productive workforce and they know that when employees feel their work is meaningful and they are valued and supported, they tend to have higher wellbeing levels, be more committed to the organisation’s goals and perform better. Research shows that FTSE 100 companies that prioritise employee engagement and wellbeing outperform the rest of the FTSE 100 by an average of 10 per cent. Good mental health underpins this.

In order to achieve this, we recommend that employers put in place a comprehensive strategy to help people stay well at work, to tackle the root causes of work-related mental ill health and to support people who are experiencing a mental health problem in the workplace.  

By fostering a mentally healthy workplace culture and putting in place the right support, businesses find that they are able to achieve peak performance.  This agenda has become important not only for HR professionals and line managers who are increasingly understanding the link between good mental health and productivity, but also for senior business leaders who are starting to see mental health as a strategic boardroom priority.

A key area of focus going forward is line manager capabilities who need to be equipped to support staff to manage the increasing blurring between work and life. Research shows that an effective and supportive line management relationship is one of the key indicators of workplace wellbeing. Building healthy relationships at work is often a question of managers taking simple steps to support staff – ensuring they factor in regular catch ups, provide clear priorities, celebrate employee successes, involve staff in decision making and mould their management style to suit the individual’s needs.  

It’s important to remember that line manager behaviour is as much influenced by the working culture within an organisation as it is by individual ability or motivation to support employee wellbeing. Senior leaders have a significant impact on how line managers carry out their role, by setting the overall organisational approach to wellbeing and ensuring this is implemented consistently across the organisation.  

So what should the future look like? Given the rapidly growing profile of mental health in the past few years there is an enormous opportunity to harness the public interest and really start to think progressively about what employers can do to push the agenda forward. The twin goals of increasing levels of staff wellbeing and engagement should be a major priority for UK business leaders - you can’t have one without the other, as evidenced by our 2013 survey in which 60 per cent of employees said they’d feel more motivated and more likely to recommend their organisation as a good place to work if their employer took action to support the staff mental wellbeing (2). In seeking to move rhetoric to reality employers must mainstream good mental health and make it a core business priority.  A mentally healthy workplace and increased employee engagement are interdependent – by looking after employee’s mental wellbeing, staff morale and loyalty, innovation, productivity and profits will rise.

How can Mind help?

How can IOSH help?


  • Deloitte (2014), Big Demands and High Expectations: The Deloitte Millennial Survey
  • Mind (2013), Populus survey of 2,060 adults aged 18+ in England and Wales, in work between 6-10 March 2013



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