Employers are taking mental health at work more seriously than ever - Louise Aston on the Bupa Employee Wellbeing Award 2015

July 8, 2015 Louise Aston

Bupa Employee Wellbeing Award: Companies are creating the conditions for employees to flourish by taking a more holistic, integrated approach to wellbeing

Louise Aston, Director, Wellbeing at Work at Business in the Community shares what she has learned from this year's Bupa Employee Wellbeing Award entries.

We were delighted to receive a record number of entries this year for the Bupa Employee Wellbeing Award.  We positively encouraged companies who are addressing employee mental health to enter as few have done so previously.  This year almost 90% of entrants include support for employee mental health and resilience in their wellbeing programmes.  This fits well with the imperative to address poor mental health at work, which a recent OECD report highlighted costs the UK 4% of GDP and accounts for 40% of absence.  

The overall standard of entries was very high.  Common themes include the need to position employee wellbeing in a holistic way as a boardroom issue with mental health as one strand within an integrated approach, and the need to create workplace cultures where people can talk openly and receive support for all aspects of their wellbeing, so that they can flourish at work.    But one size doesn’t fit all, and the variety of work being undertaken in this area by our finalists – all superb – reflect this:

AllState NI have introduced an energy and resilience programme that has achieved great engagement scores, improved energy levels for 90% of employees and helped make the company an employer of choice, such that they can now recruit using only their internal team without any agency support.  

Friends Life (now Aviva) have made a step-change in their support for employee mental health, with one employee describing how despite the seriousness of his mental health condition, the support he received enabled him to continue at work as part of his recovery.  They have also played a key role in leading the debate across business and sharing what they have learned.

Toyota Motor Manufacturing UK have a comprehensive programme of in-house health provision combined with a focus on what employees can do,  which means that in many cases they can back at work in remarkably short time frames.   Their approach is firmly rooted in company values and a real understanding of the importance of work itself to people’s health and wellbeing.

Virgin Trains East Coast, whose programme was highly commended, have focused on getting targeted groups of employees engaged with their own health and wellbeing.  They have achieved incredible engagement scores and reduced self-reported work-related stress by 50% with a highly responsive, employee-led programme which the judges described as being ‘done with’ rather than ‘done to’ the participants.

Our overall award Winner, Unilever UK, impressed the judges with their holistic approach to mental health, as part of their employee wellbeing programme.  They have already trained 50% of their line managers to recognise the signs of mental ill health in their team members and sign-post appropriate support and, as a large, well-resourced organisation, have recognised their responsibility to share their learnings to enable other organisations to move forward faster on this issue. 

The outcomes delivered by all our entrants programmes demonstrate that investing in a strategic and integrated approach to employee wellbeing, returns real, tangible, bottom-line business benefits:

  • Unilever’s wellbeing programme returned over 14 Euros for every 1 Euro invested.

  • Companies entering the award reported a total of £7,120,660 in cost savings linked to their wellbeing programmes.

  • 100% of entrants reported increased employee engagement scores linked to their wellbeing programme.

  • 89.7% reported reduced absenteeism, with an average reduction in sickness absence of 1.4 days/year linked to their wellbeing programmes.That represents a total of working 113,383 days saved by companies who entered the award.

See the list of Finalists and Shortlisted entries.

Issues: 

Bupa Employee Wellbeing Award: Companies are creating the conditions for employees to flourish by taking a more holistic, integrated approach to wellbeing

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