Workplace mental health during the cost of living crisis

Date posted: May 18, 2023
Muslim college students talking to a group in counseling

Midlands Engine’s Mental Health and Productivity Pilot on the importance of focussing on employee mental health in times of increased financial hardship.

The cost of living crisis is hitting individuals and businesses hard, with rising prices for essential goods and services contributing to financial pressure and stress. Mental health can be significantly impacted by financial worries, with many people experiencing anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues as a result of financial difficulties.

According to Mind, a mental health charity in the UK, 46% of people in debt have experienced suicidal thoughts as a result of their financial situation, while 50% of people with mental health problems have experienced financial difficulties. Financial insecurity can have a significant impact on mental health, leading to stress, anxiety, and depression.

The link between poverty and mental health is well established, with Mind reporting that people living in poverty are twice as likely to develop mental health problems as those in higher income groups. The impact of the cost of living crisis is therefore likely to be felt most acutely by those already experiencing poverty and financial insecurity.

Employers have a key role to play in supporting the mental health of their employees during this difficult time. The Mental Health at Work Toolkit highlights the importance of supporting the financial wellbeing of employees, particularly in times of financial stress. Employers can provide practical support, such as financial education and advice, as well as emotional support and flexible working arrangements.

Investing in employee mental health can also have a positive impact on business performance, with research showing that employers can see a return of £5.30 on average for every £1 invested in staff mental health. The cost of mental health-related sickness absence is at a record high of £53-56 billion per year, an increase of 25% since 2019. By investing in employee mental health, employers can save money in the long run by reducing absenteeism and presenteeism, improving productivity and staff retention.

During the post-COVID recovery and the cost-of-living crisis, it is important to put wellbeing at the heart of business strategy. Employers can support their employees by creating a culture of openness and support, providing access to mental health services, and promoting work-life balance. This can help to create a positive and supportive working environment, where employees feel valued and supported.

In addition to supporting employees, employers can also play a role in tackling the root causes of the cost-of-living crisis, such as low wages and insecure employment. By paying a living wage and providing secure employment, employers can help to reduce financial stress and improve mental health outcomes for their employees.

In conclusion, the cost of living crisis is placing significant pressure on individuals and businesses alike, with financial stress having a significant impact on mental health. Employers have a key role to play in supporting the mental health of their employees during this difficult time, through providing practical and emotional support, promoting work-life balance, and investing in mental health services. By doing so, employers can not only support their employees but also save money in the long run through improved productivity and staff retention.

Learn more about the work of the pilot here:


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