HR Leaders’ Predictions for The Future of Mental Health at Work

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The last two years will go down in history as one of the most tumultuous times in living memory.  Back in August 2020, Oliver Matejka, a copywriter for workplace mental health platform Unmind – who are Gold Sponsors of The Future track at the 4th annual MADWorld Summit, gathered predictions from the company’s community of wellbeing leaders for this farsighted piece.

One year on, which do you think have hit the nail on the head?

Mental health is no longer a “nice to have”

As Sir Ian Cheshire, Chairman, Barclays UK pointed out in our profile interview back in April, the level of take-up of free mental health and wellbeing solutions during the pandemic suggests COVID-19 may have forced employers to say to themselves  “we need to do this”, rather than “this is something we should do”.

Stephanie Valles, Benefits & Wellbeing Specialist, ASOS echoes this sentiment saying: “Investment in mental health is clearly no longer a ‘nice to have’”.

She goes on to explain that COVID-19 has taught us the importance of managing our mental health, all of the time. When unforeseen events, such as the pandemic, are forced upon us, being resilient and able to cope and adapt to change physically and mentally is vital to colleagues’ lives and the success of the business.

More flexibility, less friction

The enforced home working of the lockdown has dispelled many employers’ reservations around whether flexible working can work. Ed Airey, Group Reward Director, William Hill, points out that: “The best companies have seen engagement increase during this crisis and this should be a massive lesson”.

Across the pandemic, he has been impressed by the respect he has seen for the different roles people have in life and enabling those roles to work with much less friction.

Joanna Bean, Head of People, Thomsons Online Benefits reminds us however that not everyone wants to be working from home. Joanna believes that the mental health of colleagues will be improved if employers can work with every individual to find the flexible working balance that suits them.

Traditional EAPs will need to transform

Elle Hopkins, Director of international Total Reward with Medallia suggests that we are entering a new era of work. This includes HR leaders seeing their hard-won wellbeing agendas being validated and business leaders realising the value that a strong wellbeing strategy brings.

Elle also foresees strong support networks for employees becoming as commonplace as life insurance and adds that: “traditional EAPs will need to transform from being an ‘emergency’ service, to something more proactive”.

A new role for the office

Hayley Whitwood, People Director, Arm picks up Elle’s prediction around strong support networks for employees becoming commonplace. She thinks the pandemic will: “Define new purposes for the office that will stretch much further beyond their physical uses. They will be recognised more as places of connection and social importance”

We all have mental health

Hayley also points out that the pandemic will have tested even those of us who would identify as: “on the thriving end of the mental health spectrum”. Her hope is that as a result of the pandemic, more people will realise that everyone is susceptible to a low period of mental health and that there are ways we can proactively and preventatively keep our minds healthy.

Vanessa Sallows, Claims & Governance Director, Legal & General believes that awareness of mental health in the workplace has been increasing, highlighting the need for organisations to understand the root cause of people’s ‘stress’ and mental health concerns. She also advocates for holistic, proactive wellbeing strategies.

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Let’s keep the conversation going with our Make A Difference community of employers. I’d love to know what your predictions are for mental health at work. Email me at [email protected]

Picking up the forward-thinking theme of this article, Unmind’s Co-CEO Nick Taylor will be leading a session at this year’s MADWorld Summit on 21st October entitled: “Nurturing wellbeing in the hybrid world of work”. Nick will be in conversation with Dhavani Bishop, Head of Colleague Health, Wellbeing & Experience, Tesco and Emily Gabrielson, Health & Wellbeing Manager, Centrica.

The MAD World Summit is on Thursday 21st October, in-person at 133 Houndsditch in Central London. The Summit is the go-to event for employers who want to Make A Difference to workplace culture, mental health and wellbeing. For more information visit the event agenda or to book visit the booking page.

About the author

Claire Farrow is the Global Director of Content and Programming for the Mad World and Make a Difference Summits. She also drives the content for Make A Difference News. Claire is on a mission to help every employer – large, medium and small – get the insight, inspiration and contacts they need to make real impact on workplace culture, mental health and wellbeing in their organisation. She has been freelance for more than 15 years. During that time, she has had the honour of working with many leading publishers, including the New York Times

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