The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has published a report focusing on workplace health and wellbeing in partnership with Bupa and HCA Healthcare UK. Describing mental health and wellbeing as ‘a social issue as well as a business issue’, the CBI surveyed workplaces across the country to examine what is being done to address the issues and to look how businesses perceive their progress.

The report highlights both the business and moral case for making progress in this area. While certain businesses are leading the way, many haven’t yet acted because they are simply unaware of the potential benefits of investing in workplace health and wellbeing. 

From the findings, three key steps for businesses to follow for effective action were drawn out:

  1. Prioritising health and wellbeing from the top demonstrates its importance as a workplace issue and ensures that it is a shared priority across the business.
  2. Targeting action towards early interventions can enable people to perform at their best and makes business sense.
  3. Embedding good health and wellbeing depends on creating a culture that reinforces positive messages and prioritises staff health and wellbeing.

These were identified as some of the most effective ways to bring about benefits such as lower absence rates, enhanced productivity, and a happier and more engaged workforce. Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training was cited as a proactive example of tackling this issue:

“Building a culture that supports good workplace mental health can also be achieved by increasing the experience and visibility of staff that colleagues can talk to about their mental health. Specialist organisations, like Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England, can provide on-site training to colleagues who'd like to be mental health peer-mentors. This is particularly effective in organisations that have already raised awareness of the issue and want to provide on-going workplace support. Mentors can act as the first port of call for people experiencing poor mental health, playing a similar role to that of workplace emergency first-aiders for physical health.”

Embedding MHFA as one key part of a ‘whole organisation’ approach to mental health is key to supporting employees’ mental health. The following case studies of employers with MHFA training programmes highlighting this were also included:

Channel 4 were highlighted as an example of implementing efficient methods for improving visibility of support available and increasing awareness. Mental Health First Aiders within the organisation are visible “with balloons at their desk” and use “digital display boards to flash up key stats and messages about mental health to make the issue relevant to everyone.” This increased signposting and awareness around the subject means talking about mental health has become normalised within the organisation. Because of the positive impact MHFA training has had, Channel 4 are also working to increase their contingent from 70 to over 100 staff trained.

Unilever’s MHFA programme was also outlined as a best practice example. In the past five years, Unilever has trained 250 employees and half of all line managers in MHFA skills. The case study references the impact of the organisation’s training scheme saying, “greater mental health awareness means that employees and line managers are spotting signs of illness earlier and accessing support sooner which, in many cases, has prevented people from experiencing serious health issues.” 

The organisation’s Wellbeing Lead, Nikki Kirbell, explains: "We aim to ensure that all employees are no more than #1chat1call1click away from help and working with MHFA has helped us to raise the mental health literacy of our employee population and build a supportive network throughout the business."

The Front of Mind: Prioritising Workplace Mental Health and Wellbeing report can now be read in full.

You can find out more about MHFA training for your workplace here.