The fantastic report below lead by Rebecca George OBE, Anju Jacob and Elizabeth Hampsonof Deloitte comprehensively reviews the relationship between mental health and the workplace. Here are a few of my takeaways from the report that I feel create a negative cycle and worth being aware of in your business:

  • Young people are much less likely to disclose their ill mental health to the employer and likely to use holiday instead of days off work (page 19)
  • There is a positive case for investment in mental health by employers, finding an average return of £5 for every £1 spent, up from the £4 to £1 return identified in 2017 (page 1)
  • Presentism (not taking time away) costs a company 3.5 times the cost of absence i.e. people are present but less productive (page 15)
  • Work related mental health problems are caused largely by increased pressure and workload and lack of support (page 13)
  • Technology‐enabled, always‐on workplace culture, and are closely linked to employee burnout (page 5). I would recommend the work of Claudia Hammond into rest to see how this counterproductive
  • Uncertainty and loneliness can contribute to poor mental health for young people (page 22). The work of Prof John Cacioppo in this Ted Talk shows how dangerous this is. Certainty is actually one of the 5 things Google found made their highest performing teams most successful!
  • A clear bidirectional link between financial fitness and an individuals mental wellbeing. Levels of debt and financial insecurity are at their highest in our society. If people feel financially insecure they are less likely to take time off work which links back to presentism (page 20)
  • Every €1 invested by employers in debt management solutions for employees produced a return of €3.5 for the employer (page 21 and from a seperate study)
  • It is estimated that two thirds of employees who are struggling financially reveal at least one sign of poor mental health that could affect their ability to function at work. A seperate study found that 13% of those reporting foregoing mental health care said they could not afford the cost.
  • Organisation wide preventative activities to improve employee resilience can achieve a higher impact than reactive, individual focused activities
  • Industries with the highest cost per employee are Finance, Insurance, Real Estate, Tech and Professional Services. Organisations in London are affected the most with mental health deteriorating the most in organisations over 250 employees
  • Interventions with the highest returns tend to focus on preventative large-scale initiatives, using tech or diagnostics to tailor support for those most in need. This can provide a return of £6 for every £1 spent (page 25). 

The report has some very detailed analysis behind these findings and suggested solutions. 

A big underlying tone in this report is still the lack of conversation inside organisations with regards to mental fitness (we all have it!) and the report recommends increasing awareness as a productive step as mentioned above (return of £6 for every £1). 

Culture change is a must and whilst this needs to be driven by senior leaders when it comes to driving change the extent to which a person is at the centre in the informal network is significantly more important than their position in the formal system. In addition, people who are highly connected have twice as much power to influence change as people with hierarchical power (this is the work of Jeremy Heimans and a good starting point). 

I am fortunate to support a startup in this space and one of their clients at a leading London firm said that one of the top 3 questions from graduates is 'how will you support my mental health'. This report did not go into the potential cost to your business by not being able to attract the best talent because you are not able to satisfy this question or worse, they have already qualified you out (a few searches on Google will show some examples of this). 

In addition there is a chance that businesses will be less likely to work with you if there is a culture of not supporting your employees. 

My final thought is those in your organisation who support people with mental illness. Accenture's report found that 90% of employees have been touched by mental health challenges and it is important to be conscious of this.