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Who is responsible for workplace mental health
According to our Hays Barometer Report, less than half of professionals rate their mental health and wellbeing as positive.
There is a mismatch between the level of support that employers say they’ve offered and employees say they’ve received. 72% of employers say their organisation’s focus on mental health and wellbeing has increased. However, just 26% of professionals agree.
Either way, the recent increase in mental health problems shows someone needs to take action and turn this situation around. But this begs the question, who is responsible for caring for the mental health and wellbeing of staff at work?

The wider context of mental health in the workplace

Growing uncertainty surrounding rising inflation and ongoing geopolitical instability is having a significant impact on employee health and wellbeing. Research from the UK indicates that money worries are a significant concern, with 33 % of employees stating that these worries have affected their ability to do their job. 
These issues come after several years of turmoil for most organisations, following the COVID-19 pandemic. As employees have switched to flexible working and learnt to build resilience, is it any wonder that many feel stressed?

The case for employer responsibility

Today, many people expect their leaders to support and take responsibility for mental health in the workplace. A Mind Share Partners study found that 91% of respondents believe that employers have a responsibility to support the mental health of their workers.
Interestingly, almost all (94%) of employers in our Barometer study agreed. The majority of employers believe they should shoulder either ‘significant’ or ‘moderate’ responsibility for employee wellbeing.
Happy, healthy employees benefit the organisation overall
Clearly, employers have a critical role to play in fostering and maintaining mental health and wellness in the workplace. There are, after all, many benefits for employers.
Employees who feel supported and happy at work tend to:
  • Stay in a role for longer.
  • Take less unplanned time off.
  • Be more productive and creative.
A resilient and productive workforce that is able to cope with stress can perform at their best no matter what.
Employers have an ethical duty of care to their employees
According to the Australian Department of Health, 1 in 2 adults will face mental ill-health at some point in their lives. Employers should support mental health in the workplace to help those struggling with any mental health issue. It is an important ethical responsibility to create a supportive environment for all employees.
Legally, employers must support their employees
There are, of course, also legal obligations for employers to provide a mentally and physically safe working environment. Employers have to create a working environment that does not cause harm to the mental health of their staff through work related stress.
Wellbeing initiatives can attract top talent
What’s more, mental health and wellbeing support remains an important benefit consideration that will resonate with employees.
Therefore, attracting and retaining top talent will involve more than a traditional benefits package. Professionals have reassessed what’s really important in their personal life. Now, physical and mental health priorities have come to the fore. Being honest about the mental health support you offer is crucial if you are to attract and retain your staff.

The case for employee responsibility

Meanwhile, employees also have a role to play in fostering a happy, healthy workplace. Ultimately, as an employee, you need to take care of your own physical as well as mental health and safety. After all, our work constitutes a huge part of our lives. But sometimes it can also cause us stress or impact our work-life balance.
To supplement employer’s mental health initiatives, individual employees should:
  • Recognise how to care for their own mental health at work.
  • Actively practise stress management habits.
  • Inform your line manager if you feel overwhelmed.
As an employee, you also have a responsibility to follow health and safety guidance from your employer. This could include taking breaks during working hours, or participating in physical activity, such as walking meetings. It is a good idea to participate in practices aimed at managing stress at work and caring for your mental health.
Looking after yourself at work is vital to support your career progress, and your work-life balance.

How should we all manage mental health at work?

Employers and employees share some responsibility when it comes to maintaining positive mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. Employers should establish policies, procedures and initiatives. On the other hand, employees need to put up their hand and get involved in the programmes offered. For employers, this means that the mental health and wellbeing of employees must remain a top priority. Acting to improve mental health and wellbeing, and encouraging employee engagement, must be front and centre of every decision.
For employees, this means cooperating with your employer and taking steps to care for your own mental health in the workplace.


Read more guidance for promoting wellness at work

The Hays Salary Guide offers insights into the key drivers shaping the world of work, including where employees’ mental health and wellbeing currently stands. Download your local copy for more information.
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