Mental Health, Retention and Recruitment

When considering mental health, retention and recruitment in business, there are many things to consider. The World Health Organisation state that 

“more than half the world’s population are currently in work, and 15% of working-age adults live with a mental health disorder.” 

This information makes the issue of mental health in the workplace a substantial concern because all employees have a legal right to adequate support and a safe and healthy work environment. Also, regarding HR, being aware of mental health in your workplace mitigates its effects on retention and recruitment.

Reporting of mental health issues has dramatically increased since the pandemic. While the worst of the pandemic seems to be over, employees suffering from burnout, stress, depression and anxiety continue to come under strain with the ongoing cost of living crisis. 

mental health and recruitment shown through a lady holding her head in her hands looking at her work computer in a state of upset

How does poorly supported employee mental health affect your business retention and recruitment, and what can be done to overcome these issues?

Increased sickness

In organisations where mental health discussions are not encouraged, sickness and absence will be higher; Deloitte studies found that poor workplace mental health costs the Private sector around £43-46 billion, while it costs the Public sector around £10 billion. Creating a stigma around mental health conditions by refusing to confront the issue conveys that employees will not be taken seriously or will be poorly judged if they disclose their mental health needs; this leads to increased sickness and even long-term sick leave on some occasions.

Increased sick leave within your company will result in your employees losing out on valuable experiences and learning moments, giving them a further disadvantage on top of any mental health conditions, and impact the business negatively, ultimately leading to a high staff turnover.

Presenteeism and reduced performance

When employees continue working without disclosing mental health concerns, often they will experience a dip in performance, confidence, and presenteeism; they may feel pressure to be present in their role even though they are not fully engaging in it. 

Poor retention of talent

Businesses that have yet to engage in a culture of acceptance surrounding mental health will see the impact on their ability to retain staff members, leading to high turnover and ultimately creating higher recruitment costs. Increasingly, employees are prioritising their mental health provisions and are willing to leave a job if their requirements are not met, even if they don’t have another role to step into. 

Lack of diversity

A robust mental health policy and prioritising employee well-being are great ways to attract an inclusive workforce. Candidates from minority groups are less likely to be accessible if your business has a reputation for not addressing mental health issues and displays what could be construed as a discriminatory culture. Diverse recruitment broadens your access to top talent and ensures you attract employees more likely to champion innovation, creativity and productivity. 

How can you support a culture of acceptance for mental health to support your retention and recruitment?

Promote your values

Your company culture is instrumental in determining how your staff members show up daily, and it defines the accepted behaviours and expectations of everyone in your organisation. Promoting your values as a company is a great way to set a positive culture; your core beliefs must be tied to the well-being of your workforce. 

Seek out and implement feedback

Asking your employees what they need to support their mental health is a stepping stone to creating a culture that promotes well-being. Encourage open discussion and actively listen to feedback showing how you will take practical steps to implement their requests. 

Make mental health a priority

Promote mental health within your teams, and ensure employees know how to locate resources and what support can be accessed. Encourage staff members to put in place a mindfulness plan; this could be to increase resilience or research ways to cope with stress, amongst many others.

Create communication lines and embrace life outside the office

There’s more to life than work; your employees will appreciate that you recognise this. Creating online channels for discussion using tools such as Slack can help forge supportive relationships between your employees. Having channels where employees can connect outside of work is a great way to promote a positive culture whilst building trust and bonds between your employees. 

Creating a healthy work environment

There are endless opportunities to provide a wellness-focused environment for your employees. Start by examining the unhealthy messages you may unconsciously send your workforce, i.e. only having high-sugar snacks available in the office space or praising those that exhibit overworking habits or stay later than their contracted hours. Here are just a few ways to begin providing a health-focused environment:

  • Enforce healthy structured breaks
  • Encourage participation in office wellness activities 
  • Make time for mindfulness activities such as yoga or meditation
  • Provide healthy options in the staff canteen and fruit in the office
  • Suggest walking meetings for those working from home
  • Provide workspaces with natural light and ergonomic features

Well-being Champions

To encourage uptake within your workforce, you can enlist the help of members of your staff who you feel could help champion well-being within the work community. They may organise wellness-focused events for their colleagues, celebrate undertaking well-being in the office and promote events through posters and social media. 

Be a role-model

Arguably most important is the ability to lead by example. Encouraging your leaders to participate in group activities that support mental health and exhibit healthy habits, such as time blocking on their calendars to focus on well-being or taking regular breaks, will encourage your employees to feel comfortable doing the same. When senior leaders speak openly about mental health and take time to care for themselves, your employees will feel secure in approaching their line managers to discuss potential well-being barriers they are facing allowing you to resolve the situation before it escalates further.