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Time to Talk Day: How to build a mentally healthy workforce

To mark this year's Time to Talk Day on 4 February, Natalie Rogers, Chief People Officer at Unum, shares five tips to help employers improve their employees' mental health and overall wellbeing.

The pandemic has tested both our physical and mental wellbeing in a way we couldn’t have imagined previously. So, on this year's Time to Talk Day, as our thoughts turn to building a stronger and better business environment post pandemic it’s important that businesses take steps to build a healthier, more productive workforce. 

How does a mentally healthier workforce help my business? 

As well as being the right thing to do, providing access to tools, support or benefits that can help improve your employees’ mental health and overall wellbeing can mean less sickness absence in the long run. In turn, this can reduce the direct costs of say, overtime, temps or contractors. 

It also lessens the impact on productivity caused by losing key expertise and experience – an area where smaller businesses can struggle to fill the gap. 

Our Value of Help research found that more than four-fifths (86%) of employers are changing their approach to employee health and wellbeing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The research, which surveyed 350 UK employers and 1,000 employees, found 95% of employers said that the pandemic has impacted their need to make employees feel more protected.  

Ask your employees 

Don’t try to second-guess what people want. Instead, employers should be carrying out a company-wide survey of potential changes or benefits that people would like to see. 

Even by just asking your employees what their current health and wellbeing goals are, you’ll get some insight into what steps or improvements are likely to be effective and or well-received. 

You’re unlikely to get everything right first time, so take any opportunity to make improvements by keeping your health and wellbeing initiatives under review. 

Think flexibly 

The CIPD’s 2020 health and wellbeing report found 60% of people said workload was the biggest cause of workplace stress. 

Look out for people who may be struggling with heavy workloads or working long hours while juggling home schooling, childcare, eldercare or other demands outside of work. 

Find out the reasons behind it and act appropriately. Whether that’s delegating some work to others, adopting a flexible approach to working hours, revising unreasonable deadlines, or removing the expectation of attending unnecessary meetings. 

Check and use the tools you already have 

You may be surprised how many businesses (and their people) aren’t fully aware of exactly what certain benefits offer. For example, is there access to an Employee Assistance Programme offering expert advice on a range of lifestyle issues, such as money, child or elder care or relationships.  

Without this knowledge, employees can feel stressed which can affect their overall wellbeing and productivity. 

Adopt healthy practices 

Hopefully, 2021 will see many of us being able to return to the workplace. And whether you have a workplace canteen or restaurant, vending machines or just a communal kitchen area, providing healthy options at work, even if it’s just access to fruit or salads are likely to be appreciated. 

While some businesses may offer a gym subsidy as an employee benefit, others won’t have the budget. The good news is that exercise needn’t cost a penny or impact on the working day. 

Encourage people to take the breaks they’re allocated and get out and about as taking time for some sort of daily exercise is important for physical and mental health.   


While this may all sound like a lot of work, committing to employee wellbeing has clear benefits for both you and your employees. 

“Fostering employee wellbeing is good for people and the organisation,” said the CIPD as quoted in their wellbeing at work report. 

“Good health and wellbeing can be a core enabler of employee engagement and organisational performance, while promoting wellbeing can help prevent stress, and create positive working environments where individuals and organisations can thrive.” 

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