Why Mental Wellbeing in the Workplace is Good for Businesses

In 2016, the European Commission will initiate the review of the EU Strategic Framework on Health and Safety at Work 2014-2020 which aims at ensuring that the EU continues to play a leading role in the promotion of high standards for working conditions.

Given that most of us spend the majority of our waking hours at work, a healthy, stimulating and supportive work environment is very desirable. Is this however a reality for a lucky few, or is it becoming commonplace?

So what makes a positive work environment? There is a plethora of factors and these will invariably differ from one person to another. It may include some of the following: meaningfulness of the task to be performed, sense of responsibility and autonomy, manageable and structured workflow, resilient and people-centered work organisation, sense of belonging to a like-minded work community, supportive colleagues and managers, reward for commitment and success, workplace well-being both physically and mentally.

There is no doubt that forward-thinking employers know their organisations perform better when staff are healthy, motivated and focused. Research consistently demonstrates that there is a strong relationship between levels of staff well-being and motivation, and tangible business performance. Indeed, a recent research shows that FTSE 100 companies which prioritise employee engagement and well-being, outperform the rest of the FTSE 100 by 10%.

On the flip side, workplace mental health conditions (including stress, anxiety and depression) are amongst the dominant contributors to the global economic burden of chronic diseases. A recent analysis from the World Economic Forum demonstrated that mental health conditions will account for the loss of an additional US$ 16.1 Trillion globally over the next 20 years, with a dramatic impact on productivity at work and quality of life of employees. It’s a high price to pay, and the major impact of this economic burden will continue to be suffered mostly by employers in the form of staff absenteeism and presenteeism.

So, clearly, ignoring mental health in the workplace doesn’t make good business sense. By supporting staff mental well-being, a company can reap the benefits of enhanced morale, loyalty, commitment, innovation, productivity and profitability.

This indeed comes in full alignment to the conclusions of the European Brain Council Conference ‘Lifting the dark clouds- what can Europe do to reduce the burden of depression in the workplace?’’ organised with the support of Interel EU Health Team in December 2015.

Keynote speakers highlighted that stress, anxiety and depression are the most common reasons for staff absence when most of the time this can usually be prevented. There are a number of simple, cost-effective ways to support employee mental health, which in turn will lead to a more resilient workforce and a more profitable business:

  • Flexible working options
  • Effectively trained managers with regards ‘workplace mental health’
  • Raising awareness and creating an open culture to discuss mental health
  • Involving employees in decision making
  • Integrating mental health and wellbeing throughout policies and procedures
  • Introducing stress risk management procedures
  • Providing access to employee assistance programmes and occupational health
  • Having regular meetings with managers
  • Introducing performance management processes
  • Conducting return to work interviews.

So the bottom line is adopting innovative approaches in the workplace that put employee’s wellbeing at the centre, as this will undoubtedly trigger vast benefits for the individual and for the business too!


Laure Sonnier, PhD, MPH

Associate Director, EU

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