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Mental health and employers

The case for investment - pandemic and beyond

Mental health has routinely struggled to gain the consideration it deserves, especially in the workplace. And since the start of 2020, the pandemic has only exacerbated the situation. Will the pandemic be remembered as a main cause of the Great Resignation, or will it prove itself as a key driver of cultural change around mental health? To rise to this challenge, organisations should consider a wide range of tools and resources, carefully selecting the supporting tools and interventions that address the specific needs of various demographic groups to help employees stay healthy, feel supported, and happy at work – during the pandemic and beyond.

In our latest report, Mental health and employers: The case for investment - pandemic and beyond, we looked at the effect COVID-19 had on employees' mental health, focusing on four demographics who were impacted more than others. The groups were: young people, key workers, people with caring responsibilities and ethnic minorities.

Our analysis reveals that employers that invest in mental health support of their workforce can make significant gains. In fact, our model has found the case for employer investment is stronger than ever, with an average £5 return for every £1 spent on wellbeing support.

A win-win situation - why employers benefit from supporting employee mental health


In general, there has been some improvement in the level of mental health since the start of 2021. That said, overall wellbeing is lower than before the pandemic, and the cost to businesses has increased. The report estimates the total annual cost of poor mental health to employers have increased by 25% since in 2019. Adding up to around £53-56 billion between 2020-21.

Burnout, exhaustion, mental distance from the job, insecurities, and uncertainty have intensified absenteeism, presenteeism, and labour turnover. Presenteeism – attending work while ill and being less productive – is still the largest category. Yet, turnover has seen the most significant spike. Our survey found that nearly thirty per cent of UK employees (28%) either intentionally left their job in the past year or are planning to leave it in the next year. Moreover, nearly forty per cent of total turnover costs are now attributable to mental health issues.


Who can benefit from mental health support the most?


While we have all been weathering the same storm, we have not all been in the same boat. Evidence shows that mental health of younger employees, employees with caring responsibilities, key workers and ethnic minorities has been more adversely affected during the pandemic.

Our research shows that proactive interventions have proven to bring better outcomes and higher return on investment than reactive approaches, and with a healthy individual, society usually benefits too.

Changing expectations of employees and wellbeing opportunity for employers


Expectations on employers are changing, with one-third of employees indicating they would like to see more support to their mental health and wellbeing from employers. This will mean greater investment in screening and adequate training measures, including mental health awareness and personal therapy options. As well as early intervention techniques like education programmes that help identify individuals who may be experiencing mental health issues.

Appetite for accessing help has never been higher. According to our survey, thirty-six per cent of UK working adults said they had actively used tools to help them manage their mental health in the past year. And the uptake of apps, digital services, and assistance programmes looks set to continue.


Our recommendations for employers


The case for investing in employees’ mental health is clear. Although the solutions to poor mental health at work can often be as nuanced as the problems themselves, the key is to be guided by your people. Listening and learning about what works best for them rather than employing a one-size-fits-all approach. So, as you design the future of work, please use our report's recommendations to help inspire employers, leaders, and organisations to invest in employees' wellbeing and mental health.

About the research


This report reviews the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of employees and on the costs to employers. The findings are based on a survey of a nationally representative sample of 3,599 individuals in the UK conducted in September / October 2021. The findings were analysed using two Deloitte models: the costs to employers of poor mental health and the returns on investing in support measures to improve mental wellbeing.

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