Promoting wellbeing in the workplace

Workplace Wellbeing
Workplace Wellbeing


We recently held our third run of The Forum, discussing the importance of promoting mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. For those of you who don’t know, The Forum is an exclusive quarterly event for HR Directors to ask, share, explore and learn.

This quarter, we were talking about mental health and wellbeing in the workplace and it sparked some very interesting conversation, so I thought I would give my opinion on a few things!

First, a few stats:

  • 83% of people go to work when they are unwell
  • 59% of people who are off work on long-term sickness are off due to mental health problems

I think one thing is very clear – work wellbeing is a hot topic right now! Whilst I think organisations have come on leaps and bounds in terms of supporting wellbeing in general, I also think some organisations can turn it into a gimmick or photo opportunity – a bit like when everyone slaps the rainbow on the corporate logo for pride month…



Money or money-worries can be the root of a lot of stress and mental health issues. Some organisations have been running some great initiatives to combat this.

PKF Cooper Parry have allowed people to choose when during the month they get paid. The NHS has been offering same-day pay for its flexible employees. I think these approaches are innovative. It provides the flexibility that people need and empowers people to manage their finances and feel in control.

One thing I’m not a huge fan of is these new apps that allow you to access some of your next month’s salary early. I know they are marketed as being used for emergencies and a lot of them have limits on how much you can access, but I do feel that for some people (me included!) it would encourage you to frequently spend outside your means and always be living in a deficit, meaning you would be accessing money early every single month.



Flexible working, agile working, unlimited holidays…does it work? Do people really use it?

I am very lucky to work for an employer who offers flexible working. And when I say that I mean ACTUAL flexible working. What this means is that I can work from home, when I want, without needing a reason. On a Thursday I finish work at 4 pm to go and visit my nan who has Alzheimer’s and I don’t make the time back up. What I do, is deliver all the work I need to in the hours that I work.

Flexible working isn’t being allowed to finish at 4 pm on a Friday or starting an hour earlier/ skipping your lunch so you can leave early and it definitely isn’t being allowed to go for an appointment in the middle of the day as long as you make the time back.

The unlimited holidays I’m not 100% sold on, which is probably because It is now November and I still have 9.5 days holiday to take before Christmas. I’m not great at taking holiday. But I do see the purpose of it. Say you have a special occasion, honeymoon or the opportunity to go on an extended break, then it would be great to utilise.



There must also be engagement in workplace wellbeing and organisations need to empower and equip individuals to self-care.

There are other options to engagement surveys, for example, to get people to spend time thinking about themselves. People don’t just need to think about how they feel, but also what impacts those feelings, what are the root causes?

There are now apps that are a self-coaching platform and can be used with employees to enable them to assess their work happiness. These are an interesting alternative to employee engagement surveys and encourage people to think about the underlying motivations to their happiness – even as far as their work relationships, identifying which are high quality and which you could/would like to improve.

Anna Cleland’s app Workhappy is a great one to check out.


There is so much good happening in workplaces (and some crap here and there!) that I think we are making strides in workplace wellbeing, but there is still plenty more to be done.

It would be great to hear about the initiatives you love or hate, and what else you think needs to be done.


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Mental health at work

Mental health at work

By now, you will likely have heard how health and well-being in the workplace is becoming just as important, if not more so, than salary or career progression. One issue that certainly appears to have become more prominent is mental health in the workplace. A detailed insight into this issue has been taken by the CIPD, with surveys in 2011 and one taken more recently this year.

What important information did these surveys bring to the forefront and what can employers do to offer more support?

Firstly, the number of mental health cases in the workplace has risen by 5% since 2011, with the figure now reaching 31%. More than 2000 people were polled within this survey and they found that only 46% felt like they were supported “fairly” well. This figure of 46% is an increase on the previous survey back in 2011, which found 37% felt “fairly” supported. Although this is a significant improvement, employers still have a long way to go.

Only 43% of employees decide to disclose their stress or mental health problems to their employer or manager. A figure that makes it abundantly clear that employees do not feel confident enough talking to their employers about their problems related to mental health. What is even more worrying is that this figure is exactly the same in both surveys, envisaging that nothing has changed in the last 5 years. However, out of those that do disclose their problems, 46% felt very well supported, which is an increase of 9% from 2011.

The age-group that appears to experience mental health problems the most (36%) are those that are between 45 and 54 years old, closely followed (35%) by the 25-34 and 35-44 age groups. Thus showing that mental health issues are not differentiated by age. So what causes the mental health problems? It seems that the majority (54%) seem to suffer from a combination of personal life issues and work issues.

So what can an employer do to support an employee with mental health issues?

Ensure that you create an environment that is open, that encourages staff to discuss their challenges and problems. Have a culture of openness that allows you to go beyond a persons work load, instead it delves deeper into their role responsibilities and the opportunities that they would like to see appear.

Know what to do if a mental health problem arises within your workplace, such as where to direct the employees if they require specialist help. Also, educate yourself and staff on various mental health problems, so you can see the triggers but always remember to be sensitive.

Be Clear
The groundwork can be set from the minute a new recruit starts, just by letting them know that if any problem arises, big or small, that they can discuss it.

It doesn’t take much to make an employee feel supported or to create a culture of openness, especially if it means it decreases the chances of mental health problems in the workplace. What would you suggest would make an employee feel more supported?

To discuss further, you can email me on

You can view more about James Cumming our change and business transformation specialist here.