Mental Health in the Workplace

February 2018

Soma Analytics brings together like-minded HR executives, wellbeing champions and thought leaders who are interested in breaking the stigma around mental health in the workplace. Attendees come to our events to network and to learn about new initiatives and approaches to wellbeing in the workplace.


In November, this community heard from Juliet Adams, a leading expert on mindfulness at work, on “Mindfulness at Work: Strategies to Reduce Stress and Burnout”.


Most recently, in December, Heather Kelly, Workplace Wellbeing Index Manager at Mind, spoke about “Mental Health in the Workplace”. Those that were unable to attend can watch the highlights video of the evening below:



Heather’s team at Mind work with employers and support them in improving the employees’ mental health. They have already supported nearly one hundred employers including: Deloitte, BAM Nuttall, Environment Agency, Lloyd’s of London, BDO, Royal Bank of Canada and HMRC.


We were keen to hear more details behind some of the great work Mind has been conducting. In particular, how to approach the subject of mental health in the workplace.


Heather started the session with a personal story on her motivation for  pursuing mental health professionally after spending 10 years in management and business development in the insurance sector.

What is the Current Picture of Mental Health Across UK Workplaces?


Heather shared some alarming statistics.


  • One in four people have experienced mental health issues while in employment. (CIPD, 2016)
  • 95% of workers gave a different reason to their manager for calling in sick when they were really taking time off for stress. (Mind You Gov poll, 2014)
  • 300.000 people with a long term mental health condition leave employment every year in the UK. (Thriving at Work, 2017)
  • £8bn of absenteeism costs to UK employers annually. (Thriving at Work, 2017)
  • £17 to £26 of presenteeism costs to UK employer annually. (Thriving at Work, 2017)
  • £33bn to £42bn of turnover costs to UK employers annually to recruit/train new staff when someone is off sick from work or leaves the organisation. (Thriving at Work, 2017)
  • £1.551 to £1.878 of mental ill- health costs £1.551 to £1.878 on average per employee per year per public sector employer. (Thriving at Work, 2017)
  • £1.119 to £1.481 of mental ill-health costs  on average per employee per year per private sector employer. (Thriving at Work, 2017)


In addition, “56 percent of managers said they would like to do more to improve staff wellbeing but don’t feel they have the right training or guidance”, according to a Mind You Gov poll from 2013.


Having established themselves as thought leaders Mind were very pleased to conduct an independent review into how employers can better support the mental health of their employees and help them to remain in and thrive at work. Heather discussed the key findings from this review, the “Farmer/Stevenson Thriving at Work report” (released in late October) which sets out what employers can do to better support their employees.


In summary, employers should:

  • Produce, implement and communicate a mental health at work plan,
  • Develop mental health awareness among employees
  • Encourage open conversations about mental health and the support available when employees are struggling
  • Provide employees with good working conditions
  • Promote effective people management
  • Rotuniley monitor employee mental health and wellbeing


Heatfher emphasised that the key to success is to increase transparency and accountability through both internal and external reporting. For example, she referenced Soma Analytics’ Mental Health and Wellbeing: FTSE 100 Report 2017 which reveals a link between the corporate reporting of mental health and earnings performance with the companies that addressed employee mental health and wellbeing in their 2016 annual reports enjoying up to three times more profit. Request your free copy here.


Raising Awareness of Mental Health and Breaking Stigma


Heather shared some tips on ways employers can commit to a workplace mental health agenda. Employers can build mental health literacy and start the journey to breaking stigma by:


  • Providing mental health training for all staff and line managers and/or running workshops on resilience-building and stress-reduction techniques
  • Signing the Time to Change Employers pledge (anti-stigma mental health campaign)
  • Sharing information, case studies and blogs about mental health on their staff intranet or in newsletters
  • Hosting wellbeing days/events where lived experience is shared


Other effective workplace activities include:


  • Creating employee-led working groups, including employees with lived experience of mental health problems to help shape and drive your work.
  • Encouraging senior and/or high profile employees with experience of mental health problems to share their stories. Show that the most successful people in your organisation can also be vulnerable.
  • Offering digital tools and products as low cost, scalable interventions to both support and educate.


Best Practice Examples to Draw From


Many companies are already addressing workplace wellbeing and mental health. Taking a lead in this area now can actually provide employers with advantages when it comes to attracting and retaining staff, not to mention productivity.


Barclays: This is me campaign

This is me challenges the stigma around mental health at work and aims to break the culture of silence by supporting people to tell their own stories in short films.


BT Group: Workfit programme

BT are known for their public wellbeing reporting and the Workfit programme supports people to improve both their physical and mental health.


Marks & Spencer: Plan A Wellbeing

Plan A Wellbeing is positioned as a boardroom issue and linked to business objectives.


Royal Mail: Feeling First Class

Royal Mail have created a website as a brand for the employee wellbeing programme, featuring information, resources, self-assessment tools, and promoting Royal Mail’s staff gyms.


Unilever: 1 Chat, 1 Call, 1 Click campaign

The premise of the campaign is that employees should be no more than one chat, one call or one click away from help. Unilever provides a central hub containing tools for line managers to manage a team’s talent, performance and potential.


Environment Agency – Healthy Minds programme

An awareness-raising and training programme for both individuals and programme managers that teaches people how to spot the signs of emotional distress as well as how to access support. The programme creates a positive, safe environment to help staff break down any barriers and talk without fear of stigma.


Make It Business As Usual


Make effective management and the monitoring of staff wellbeing business as usual with:

  • Team meetings – include a team temperature check as a standing item
  • 121s – ask about wellbeing during routine checkups with staff
  • Team audits – regularly take stock of the team mental health
  • Wellness Action Plans – normalise mental health as a topic that touches all staff


Mind’s Workplace Wellbeing Index


Heather showed us a short clip with some fascinating insights into Mind’s work and it’s Workplace Wellbeing Index. It featured interviews with wellbeing champions and senior managers from organisations such as Deloitte and Jaguar Land Rover.


Finally, Heather talked us through the inaugural 2016-7 Workplace Wellbeing Index study of 15,000 employees from 30 organisations took part and the key findings include:


  1. We all have mental health and it changes over time
  2. Stress at work can lead to poor mental health and time off work
  3. We need more open conversations about mental health in the workplace
  4. There is a disconnect between how well managers feel they support staff versus how well supported employees feel
  5. Organisations should invest more in a workplace wellbeing to benefit their bottom line


It was another great event – Soma Analytics is delighted to host people motivated to make a difference to workplace wellbeing and mental health.



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