Many organisations guilty of ‘mental health washing’, survey finds
Poll also reveals eight in 10 UK employees do not believe their employer when they promote their wellbeing initiatives.
Many companies may be guilty of ‘mental health washing’, where businesses promote the importance of mental health but do not have policies to match this, according to a poll by payroll and finance software provider MHR.
The survey of 1,000 UK adults, which found that eight in 10 (79 per cent) UK employees do not believe their employer when they discuss or promote their wellbeing initiatives, comes after World Mental Health Day yesterday (10 October).
The research also found that a fifth (19 per cent) of FTSE 100 companies posted about mental health on their social channels on relevant awareness days, but then did not reference anything relating to mental health for the rest of the year.
Sharon Bligh, director of health and sustainability, The Consumer Goods Forum, told People Management: “Healthy, happy employees are the foundation of every responsible business. Thriving workforces mean sustainable, successful businesses.”
Employees have never been in greater need of health and wellbeing support after the pandemic and cost of living crisis caused “multiple stressors”, she said, adding: “We have also entered a new phase for employee wellbeing as remote working has radically shifted employees’ needs and expectations.”
But firms must ensure that their mental wellbeing support tackles root issues and is not “tokenistic”, Bligh said.
While initiatives like free yoga, subscriptions to wellbeing apps and impromptu days off are welcome, they should only be welcome extras to a wellbeing policy, rather than a core strategy. Instead, businesses should address “the basics” including workload and working hours, Bligh added.
“In many companies, HR is one of the best communication channels for employees to express their wellbeing concerns,” she said.
“HR professionals should advocate for a well-rounded framework that provides employees with better access to wellbeing support, creates a work culture that cherishes mental health and carries out regular assessments on wellbeing programmes implemented. However, the true change in a company’s wellbeing culture requires C-suite-level support.
“Taking a preventative approach to mental health and wellbeing, focusing on long-term strategies instead of one-off activities that may not be taken up by employees in future, should be a priority not just for HR but must be decided at the boardroom level.”
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