Woman wiping her eyes

Workplace mental health and wellbeing policies explained

How are your employees doing?

And we don’t mean performance metrics in a spreadsheet somewhere — how are they feeling?

The past 2 years have been difficult for many people financially, emotionally and physically. It’s therefore more important than ever for employers to understand employee wellbeing and actively support it. As well as being vital to a workforce’s wellbeing, there are also business benefits.


Why prioritise workplace wellbeing?

Only around half (51%) of business have a strategic approach to employee wellbeing. Yet mental ill health is the UK’s fourth-most common cause of short-term sickness absence and the biggest cause of long-term sickness absence.1 Plus, COVID-19 has exacerbated mental ill health — up to 10 million people in England potentially need mental health support following the pandemic.2

Taking care of employees’ mental health can have a major return on investment not just in improved staff wellbeing but also potentially meaning:

  • Higher productivity3
  • Reduced absenteeism4
  • Improved retention,5 meaning less staff turnover and reduced hiring costs
  • Benefits to your company’s reputation as a good place to work.6


What is a workplace mental health and wellbeing strategy?

A workplace mental health and wellbeing strategy is a plan, pathway or roadmap for how you as a business manage employees’ mental health and wellbeing.

Above all, it doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive. However, it’s key to bringing to life and embedding a culture of workplace wellbeing so every employee can thrive.


Implementing a workplace mental health and wellbeing strategy

Mental health is a complex topic; however, a wellbeing strategy doesn’t have to be. For example, simple steps employers can take include:

  1. Starting a wellbeing committee: Get people from across the business involved to promote wellbeing initiatives that work for everyone.
  2. Creating a mental health policy if you don’t already have one: Unum can support with this with a Workplace Health and Wellbeing Review.
  3. Regularly reviewing your policy: It’s not enough to create the policy and leave it be. It must involve regular, two-way communications between employer and employees about how it should evolve
  4. Measuring and managing your risk areas: Examine your current wellbeing measures and make improvements as well as promote what’s available and measure utilisation and outcomes
  5. Checking existing providers: See if you already get access to support for your employees. For instance, Unum Group Risk customers can access our health and wellbeing app Help@hand7 (powered by Square Health) and our employee assistance programme (EAP) LifeWorks
  6. Line manager competencies: Train line managers and upskill them to support staff.


None of these require major strategic business change but, as above, ensuring employee wellbeing can make a real difference to your staff.


What is Unum’s Workplace Health and Wellbeing Review?

Perfect for those unsure where to start or wanting to review their existing approach, our Workplace Health and Wellbeing Review examines your current workplace wellbeing strategy, then discusses how you could make changes to improve employee wellbeing.

Our wellbeing specialists work with you to make these improvements over 12 months, offering advice, training and support at every step.

At initial review, we determine what already exists and areas that aren’t being met, based on:


We’ve used these to create six standards to promote optimal employee health and wellbeing:

  1. Having a mental health and wellbeing policy/plan
  2. Ensuring easy access to resources to support health and wellbeing
  3. Making wellbeing part of the journey from recruitment through to employment
  4. Providing good working conditions and training/development opportunities
  5. Effective line manager practises
  6. Gathering and using data to determine and manage health and wellbeing risk.


How have we helped?

Our team provides a clear structure and approach that leads to real, tangible success. Companies who complete a Unum Workplace Health and Wellbeing Review see notable benefits.

For instance, at initial review, we found 74% of companies met standard four — having good working conditions, benefits and a positive work/life balance. Whilst this is a good score, after companies worked with us throughout the year, we were able to increase this to 100% at final review.

At Unum, we’re proud that, for companies that completed a Workplace Health and Wellbeing Review, the percentage that:

  • Had a mental health and wellbeing strategy rose from just 6% at initial review to 83% at final review
  • Met the CIPD’s standards for effective people management rose from just 5% at initial review to 42% at final review
  • Achieved all six standards we review them against rose from only 1% at initial review to 25% at final review.


Meanwhile, our return-to-work support team helped 95.5% of people referred to us for mental health concerns return to work or achieve an agreed result, even as such referrals rose by 27% between 2020 and 2021.


Support from Unum

As mentioned, part of your workplace wellbeing strategy might include promoting resources available to employees. This includes those accessible to employees covered by certain Unum Group Risk policies, such as:

  • An employee assistance programme (EAP)7 for life and wellbeing support
  • Help@hand7 offers those covered by Unum Group Risk policies access to services such as counselling from mental healthcare professionals
  • Wellness Action Plans — for those with long-term conditions (not just mental health concerns), these show how both employer and employee can manage the employee’s condition
  • Mental Health Pathway: Gives our Group Income Protection (GIP) customers a single access point for specialist support for employees or employers dealing with workplace mental health concerns. Queries increase by 65% between 2020 and 2021.
  • Wellbeing Checks — Unum’s GIP lets employers and employees make a referral for an employee Wellbeing Check, a personalised check-in with an in-house Unum wellbeing expert
  • Line manager training and employee wellbeing workshops: CPD-accredited courses for line managers to help them support employee wellbeing on topics including stress management and mental health. Plus, employee sessions on resilience, thriving through change and lifestyle management. We’ve had 42,000 workshop attendees since 2018. 
  • Wellbeing Calendar: Packed with resources such as podcasts, articles, webinars and awareness dates.


The bottom line

Promoting workplace wellbeing makes your company a better, more attractive place to work. It’s good for current employees and for attracting future hires.

Mental Health Awareness Week 2022 is between May 9th–15th. The annual event focuses on achieving better mental health — but this shouldn’t be limited to just one week. However, it can prompt employers to create a mental health strategy to give employees long-term support.


1 Health and wellbeing at work 2022, CIPD, p.6
2
Up to 10 million people in England may need support for their mental health as a result of the pandemic, Centre for Mental Health, October 2020 3 Happy workers are 13% more productive, Saïd Business School, Oxford University
4
A study of employees' job satisfaction and its impact on their performance, Bhanu Misra and Sandeep Sehgal
5
The Importance of Workplace Wellbeing on Staff Retention, Employee Benefits
6
From Perception to People Insights — How do you monitor employee wellbeing?, The HR Director
7 Access to the service is facilitated by Unum at no cost to the Unum customer. Unum is not the provider of the service but can withdraw or change the service at any time. The service is entirely separate from any insurance policy provided by Unum and is subject to the terms and conditions of the relevant third-party specialists. There is no additional cost or increase in premium as a result of Unum making this benefit available.

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