Promoting good mental health in the workplace can improve brand and reputation as well as staff retention. To do this successfully, business leaders need to “be proactive” and drive change from the top down, said Rachel Thompson, employment law and outsources human resources consultant at RT Advance Consulting.

Thompson was speaking as part of the Mental Health: Business Critical? session at the 2021 Airmic Conference today (5 September 2021) – she was joined by Lorna Feeney, head of mental health risk at Marsh Risk Consultancy.

Considering mental health and investment, employers who uptake positive changes in the workplace can secure an average return of £5 for every £1 spent – according to Deloitte’s report Mental health and employers: refreshing the case for investment (January 2020).

To ensure that employers can support employees better, Thompson and Feeney highlighted six core standards set out in the Thriving at Work report – commissioned by the UK government in October 2017.

The six steps are:

1. To produce, implement, and communicate a mental health at work plan.

2. To develop mental health awareness amongst employees.

3. To encourage open conversations about mental health and the support available when employees are struggling.

4. To provide employees with good working conditions and ensure they have a healthy work life balance, as well as opportunities for development.

5. To promote effective people management through line managers and supervisors.

6. To routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing.

Feeney noted that someone who has taken time off work because of a mental health condition should be treated the same as if it were a physical illness – for example, sending flowers or calling for a simple conversation.

Mental health in business should also be “constantly moving target” for firms to continue progressing, she added.