Researchers and employers collaborating to boost workplace mental health strategies

Date posted: September 27, 2020

As part of the second phase of the Mental Health and Productivity Pilot (MHPP) funded by the Midlands Engine, Midlands Enterprise Universities (MEU) partners the University of Derby and the University of Lincoln are working with businesses to improve the mental health in the workplace.

Researchers will be supporting and advising businesses from across the Midlands on the implementation of effective mental health strategies.

Businesses taking part will be asked to commit to an initial meeting to discuss how the programme would work for their company, creating a roadmap for its success, and promoting their commitment to the pilot in the workplace. Training courses which not only help to raise awareness but could be used to support continuing professional development (CPD) will also be available. The businesses can be of any shape and size but must be committed to nurturing a positive culture that develops strength in the workplace.

Dr Paula Holt, Pro Vice-Chancellor Dean of the College of Health and Social Care at the University of Derby, said:

The cost to the economy of mental health across the Midlands could be more than £45bn this year.

Yet research shows that for every £1 invested in supporting the mental health of employees, the return to the employer in productivity is £5. Those returns are greater still when employers take preventative, rather than reactive, steps to help their staff.

The first phase of the pilot spoke with 1,900 employers in the Midlands to explore current experience of issues associated with mental health and well-being of employees in the workplace, how they deal with these and the impacts on business performance and productivity.

Around a third of who took part reported sickness absence among staff due to mental health issues, and a similar proportion recorded presenteeism, particularly in the hospitality and business services sectors.

The factors found to be negatively affecting mental health of employees included:

  • Lone or remote working
  • Client expectations on time, quality and cost
  • Job insecurity
  • Recruitment practices

Dr Holt added:

A healthy and inclusive workplace is essential for all businesses, so providing appropriate support for employees, creating a culture of openness and tackling discrimination and stigma, will help to remove some of the barriers to growth and development for firms.

The research we have carried out shows that employers recognise that understanding how to address mental health issues effectively can boost morale, engagement and motivation, but also reveals that they are not always sure where to obtain the help they need.

By participating in this pilot programme, it’s hoped employers will be able reduce rates of absence due to mental health related issues and increase productivity, whilst promoting a culture of support and inclusivity for all staff.

The pilot will link employers directly to initiatives such as Every Mind Matters, This is Me and Mental Health First Aid, which all provide expert guidance. Once embedded into an organisation, the guidance aims to help reduce the prevalence of mental health difficulties and increase productivity among the workforce.

The University of Derby is currently appealing for businesses who want to take part in the scheme to get in touch.

Click here for further information on the pilot and how to apply


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