9 reasons why business leaders must act now on workplace mental health

With mental health conditions on the rise, and a whole new normal to contend with across the globe, the spotlight has been firmly put on how employers support their people.

But why should business leaders care so much about mental health at work? Isn’t this a job for HR? It might have been once upon a time, but the landscape is changing, and the status quo is no longer enough.

Here are our 9 reasons for business leaders to act on workplace mental health now:

1. It’s the right thing to do: Leaders have a responsibility; not just for budgets and KPIs, but for the overall wellbeing of their workers. And employees, now more than ever, need leaders who can relate to their lives beyond the workplace.

2. Rising numbers: In the decade to 2017, global mental health disorders had risen by 13%; that’s before the impact of Covid-19. By 2030, WHO indications predict that depression will be the leading cause of disease burden globally.

3. Younger generations are more stressed: According to Deloitte’s Global Millennial Survey 2020 (carried out before the pandemic) almost half of Gen Zs and millennials reported feeling anxious or stressed. This age group is set to become the majority of the workforce by 2030. In other words, how you handle things now will determine the wellbeing of your future workforce.

4. Lost productivity: Mental ill health doesn’t only impact the individual, their work suffers too. In South Africa, lost productivity as a result of depression costs the equivalent of 5.7% of its GDP. In fact, happy employees are 13% more productive than their unhappy peers.

5. Lost days: 12 billion days are lost to anxiety and depression each year globally. In Brazil, mental illness is the third leading cause of long absences from work; while 500,000 Canadians are unable to work each week due to mental health problems.

6. Loss of talent: In Canada, 39% of employees would hide a mental health condition from their employer; 69% of US employees agree it’s ‘safer’ to stay silent about workplace stress; while 9% of employees in Hong Kong have left a job due to difficulties related to mental illness. If employers don’t support employee’s mental health in the workplace, the loss of talent (whether to competitors or illness) will be profound.

7. Sound investment: The bad news is that poor mental health among employees costs UK employers £42B – £45B each year. The better news is that in the UK, employers get an average return of £5 for every £1 they invest in employee mental wellbeing.

8. Covid crisis: Lockdowns; economic uncertainty; financial pressures; remote working; the virus itself – it’s all taking a toll. Rebuilding will be faster and more effective if employees feel supported to thrive.

9. Brand loyalty: 64% of US adults say a company’s primary purpose should be “making the world a better place”; while consumers are 83% more likely to be loyal to brands that lead with purpose. Purpose starts with the way businesses treat their people, and mental health ought to be top of this agenda.

Leaders must take action to address mental health at work by pledging to create workplaces that are more mentally healthy for everyone, everywhere.


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