As the UK marks Mental Health Awareness Week, many small to medium business owners are no doubt looking to become more aware of the benefits of securing the health and mental wellbeing of their workforce.

Creating a mentally healthy working environment, as well as employee benefits which give peace of mind, can boost staff productivity and loyalty.

We caught up with Mike Preston, Business Development Director, at Protect My People for his views on the benefits and options when it comes to workplace mental health support.

£8bn could be saved with support

“Research shows that better supporting those who have mental health issues at work could save UK businesses up to £8billion a year as nearly 15% of the population experience mental health issues in the workplace. The sad fact is that most of us have experience of a mental health issue, be it first-hand or in relation to somebody they live with, associate with, or work alongside.”

Productivity can increase by 12%

“Creating a mentally healthy work environment is a responsibility all employers should bear, but one which, unfortunately, still not enough take on board as much as they perhaps could. Employers who do take the mental health of their workforce seriously can expect not only to benefit morally but also financially, with emotional wellbeing known to increase workplace productivity by as much as 12%. In addition to this, the value added to the economy by those at work who have or have had a mental health issue is as high as £225billion per year – more than 12% of the UK’s GDP.”

Solutions to consider

“Presenting opportunities for colleagues to exercise, eat well and socialise together regularly is an effective way that employers can create a space in which any concerns their employees may have regarding stress, anxiety and other mental health issues can be expressed.

The provision of benefits including group life insurance is also a constructive and cost-effective way of demonstrating an organisation’s commitment to its employees and their overall wellbeing. Offering individuals greater peace of mind in knowing that their loved ones will be taken care of should the worst happen is one less stress for them to deal with in life emotionally.

Above all, letting your workforce know you are invested in and care about them as individuals as well as employees has got to be one of the best ways to support them mentally. Encouraging workers to not only express their feelings but also map out pathways for self-care – and making sure there are regular opportunities for them to do this within, or away from, their daily work environment – shows them you truly care. This can go a long way to supporting someone who may be turning up to work every day feeling scared, lonely, depressed, anxious or otherwise, but for whatever reason feels unable to share their feelings with others.”