With everything that’s going on in the world at the moment, supporting your employees’ mental health and wellbeing should be a top priority. We’re all dealing with the uncertainty brought on by the cost of living crisis and recent global and economic events, which can feel emotionally and financially overwhelming. That's why understanding mental health and the help available could make a big difference to you and your employees.

Mental health awareness in society has never been higher. Supporting and nurturing employees to maintain or recover good mental health is simply the right thing to do in any business. And with 40 million working days lost1 due to mental health issues each year, it also makes sound commercial sense.

Resilience and strength are crucial for business growth. A culture of openness and support is needed for your employees to open up about their mental health at work and share how they’re feeling.

1Source: Benenden Hospital Mental Health Report

“Bank of Scotland is committed to creating an inclusive and diverse culture in which all colleagues feel valued, understood, and supported to reach their full potential. 

“Mental health is just as important as physical health. By ensuring appropriate resources, propositions and services are in place to support colleague mental and physical wellbeing, we enable them to be at their best. We are proud of our progress in this area, but we continue to learn every day from our colleagues, customers, and our partners. 

“As a Disability Confident Leader organisation, we wanted to share some of the good practice that you can use in your business. Our guide, developed with Mental Health UK, provides insights into how supporting your employees with a mental health condition can benefit your business, and showcases some tools available to support you.”

Jas Singh – CEO, Consumer Lending and Disability & Neurodiversity Executive Ally, Lloyds Banking Group

What do we mean by mental health?

Mental health and physical health are equally vital aspects of our overall wellbeing.

We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health. Both can fluctuate, so it’s vital that we look after them. In practice, being mentally healthy means ‘feeling good and functioning well’, whatever that looks like for you and your employees.

It’s crucial that conversations and support around mental health in the workplace are ongoing and consistent, not just confined to awareness days or when an issue has arisen. No-one is expecting you to become a mental health professional, but you can make a significant difference to someone’s mental health with the tools and steps outlined in this guide.

As an employer, the first step to supporting employees is learning to recognise when there might be an issue. Here are four things you can do:

  • watch out for behavioural changes, including low mood and/or signs of deterioration in colleague and client relationships
  • arrange regular 1-1 meetings that cover wellbeing as well as work topics
  • build a supportive environment where wellbeing is considered
  • signpost or offer support where you think it’s needed – such as  talking to a GP/mental health professional or visiting relevant websites.

These simple steps can prevent someone’s mental health from deteriorating so they can continue to thrive at work. You should also be mindful of changes to your own behaviour and how your mental health might impact your company’s culture.

Investing this extra effort into employee wellbeing will also help build resilience in your business, strengthen your relationships, and contribute to growth as a result.

“As responsible employers, it is not only good for our people but also makes good commercial sense to support everyone with their wellbeing. That’s why we’re committed to helping organisations take the next step to having a mentally healthy workforce.”

Brian Dow – Chief Executive Officer, Mental Health UK

Why build wellbeing into your business? 

Supporting your employees’ mental health can benefit businesses, society and the economy, too. Here are four examples:

Employee recruitment and retention

Research from organisations such as Mind shows that businesses with a reputation for taking mental health and wellbeing seriously are better able to attract and keep the highest quality candidates. This can help reduce recruitment costs when your other bills might be increasing. Keeping your best employees will also help their colleagues as there will be more stability and a stronger sense of teamwork.

Improved productivity

Happy employees who feel supported with their mental health and wellbeing will typically be more productive. Taking a proactive approach to conversations around mental health will create an inclusive environment where your employees can flourish. It will also reduce absenteeism and presenteeism in the workplace.

Less stigma around mental health topics

There’s still more work to be done by society and employers to break down the stigma around mental health. By encouraging employees to be open about their mental health so they can bring their whole selves to work, a culture of trust, diversity, and fresh thinking is more likely to thrive. Workplaces can benefit from employees sharing their stories as it normalises mental health issues.

Minimising the impact of organisational changes

Building wellbeing into your business can help when decisions affecting employees have to be made. For example, when changing someone’s role or working patterns, issues such as psychological safety* and employee engagement are important in making people part of the process.

*The belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or reporting / making mistakes.

Improve workplace mental health with these recommended actions

Updated NICE guidelines on mental wellbeing at work were published in March 2022 as part of a collaboration with Public Health England.

The recommendations contain guidance for employers on how to approach mental health in the workplace and support employee wellbeing. The table below is an overview of some of the main considerations. The list is not exhaustive, and different employees will value and benefit from a range of tools.

NICE recommendation

Steps you can take

NICE recommendation

Strategic approaches to improving mental wellbeing in the workplace

Steps you can take

  • Implement a proactive approach to mental health in your workplace
  • Focus on prevention when it comes to workload, autonomy and culture issues

NICE recommendation

Supportive work environment 

Steps you can take

  • Create a positive, compassionate and inclusive working environment for all
  • Encourage employees to support each other through difficult times 

NICE recommendation

Organisation-wide approaches

Steps you can take

  • Use staff surveys and 1-1 conversations to help shape your company’s mental health policies
  • Involve your employees in measures to reduce workplace stress 

NICE recommendation

Training and support for managers

Steps you can take

  • Provide mental health education and support to line managers
  • Encourage managers to tailor flexible workload / workplace arrangements for their team

NICE recommendation

Individual-level approaches

Steps you can take

  • Promote open and honest conversations on mental health issues
  • Ensure easy access to additional support and useful apps 

There’s more to mental wellbeing than trying to prevent problems. Instead, you should be regularly exploring ways to promote a positive culture. As an employer, it’s essential you look after your own mental health too, so you can be there for your staff.

How to provide a positive experience for remote workers

Working patterns have changed, with many employees favouring flexibility:

  • In May 2022, the proportion of people hybrid working rose to 24%
  • The percentage working exclusively from home was 14%
  • In February 2022, 78% of those who worked from home in some capacity said doing so gave them an improved work-life balance.

The future of hybrid working – Office for National Statistics

What impact does remote and hybrid working have on mental health and wellbeing?

Checking in regularly

Ensuring your employees don’t feel isolated when working from home can help to prevent stress and mental health issues. Keeping in touch via video call, email or instant messaging that include some social elements will make a difference.

Warning signs to watch out for

It’s not easy to notice changes in behaviour when your employees work remotely. Things to look out for may include changes in their physical appearance, tone of voice and poor punctuality.

Making yourself available

For employees working from home, it’s important to reassure them you’re always there, ready to listen, however they prefer to communicate with you.

Managing expectations

Setting clear and measurable objectives for your work-from-home employees can help establish and maintain trust. Focusing on outcomes rather than location gives both parties a clear sense of expectation without the need for micromanaging or creating unnecessary stress.

One way to be proactive and open up conversations around mental health is to have a wellbeing workplan standard in place. This approach is better than reactively implementing something following mental ill health absences.

How to help your work-from-home employees feel included:

  • copy them into all relevant emails
  • use technology they’re comfortable with for staying in touch
  • keep them in the loop with things that affect their work
  • arrange in-person and social events so you can catch up face-to-face.

Simple steps to enhance workplace resilience

At Bank of Scotland, we’ve embraced the NICE recommendations alongside our ongoing support for colleagues through the following measures: 

Developing mental health awareness among employees

Encouraging open conversations

Providing tools and resources

Developing mental health awareness among employees

  • E-learning modules
  • Hosting calls with experts

Encouraging open conversations

  • Participating in Mental Health Awareness Week
  • Creating regular mini-campaigns to raise awareness

Providing tools and resources

  • Sharing case studies from leaders and colleagues
  • Proven ways to reduce stress and anxiety, such as access to the Headspace app

Working in partnership with Mental Health UK, we’ve also created a hub providing tips and guidance for improving mental health and building resilience to help set you and your business up for success. The content includes tips on how to talk about mental healthtips on managing stress and anxiety and much more. 

Su’s transformation journey

Su Pillinger, a Lloyds Banking Group employee, shares her mental health journey.

Hitting rock bottom

“I remember the overwhelming feelings of emptiness and fear that I experienced when I was in the grip of my breakdown. I couldn’t sleep, had zero appetite and had no interest in anything going on around me. As a bubbly person, I realised very early on that this was more than simply ‘being stressed’.”

An understanding ear

“I am forever grateful for the support from my then-line manager, who had personal experience of a similar condition. He went out of his way to ensure I could return to work in a safe environment without too much pressure to get straight back to my normal routine.”

Committed to helping others

“By regularly talking about my condition and learning new ways to cope with situations, I am now in a great place and proud to be a mental health advocate.”

Su Pillinger - Lloyds Banking Group employee

Build mental resilience

Developed in partnership with Mental Health UK, our hub provides tips and guidance for improving mental health and building resilience to help set you and your business up for success. 

How to build mental resilience

Useful links

There’s a wide range of support available on mental health at work and employee wellbeing, including the links below:

Mental Health UK: 40 years’ experience supporting people affected by mental health issues.

Mental Health & Money Advice: Practical advice and support for people experiencing issues with mental health and money.

Mental Health at Work: Find resources to support your managers and staff, and assess your organisation’s approach.

Mind: Provides dedicated mental health support for employees and employers.

Headspace: A global leader in meditation and mindfulness with 100s of themed sessions.

The Prince’s Responsible Business Network: Explore toolkits and factsheets to help your business build resilience.