In the last few months, I’ve had lots of Leaders and HR managers reach out to me about getting mental health support for their teams.
This makes me happy.
Not that people need help but that there is a shift happening and businesses are really starting to put wellbeing at the heart of the way they work.
There’s always a but, right?!
…Getting buy-in from the people who hold the purse strings is rarely easy. Even when people are literally crying out for support (I have a LOT to say about this but it’s a topic for another post!) they are struggling to get the ‘green light’ for funding.
This is because mental health and wellbeing support is generally viewed as something that’s “nice to have” rather than a “must-have”.
But the events of 2020 have radically changed this and people are now IN NEED of and EXPECTING to get wellbeing support from their employers.
I know it can be difficult to get things set up and signed off when it’s new, especially if it’s a bit ‘sensitive’ and budgets are closely guarded for business development.
So, here’s a short ‘how to’ guide to help you build a business case for Mental Health and wellbeing support in your organisation.
1. Connect to your business strategy.
What are the top priorities for the business right now? Is it the bottom line (this is nearly always a priority!), hiring, innovation, entering new markets?
Be sure to frame conversations and any proposals or requests in these terms. Link the importance of a mentally well workforce to the current priorities of the business.
And don’t forget – we live in a knowledge economy.
That means that the primary reason we employ people these days is nearly always for their knowledge – their mental power. So it makes sense that we should invest in keeping it as fit and healthy as possible.
2. Money talks, so talk money.
This makes me wince a bit. Putting a pound, euro or dollar sign on the mental health of a human feels pretty unhuman.
But sometimes, especially when it comes to securing funding, it’s a necessary first step.
Here are a few stats that could help:
- 1 in 4 people experience mental health issues each year. That’s ¼ of your workforce who will suffer.
- At any given time, 1 in 6 working-age adults have symptoms associated with mental ill health.
- Mental illnesses are more common, long-lasting and impactful than any other health conditions.
- 57% of all absences are the results of poor mental health, and it’s the biggest cause of long term sick leave.
- Mental ill-health is responsible for 72 million lost working days.
- Globally, the WHO estimates it causes $1 trillion per year in loses.
- In the UK alone, sick absences due to mental ill-health costs business £8.4 billion.
- An additional £15.1 billion is lost due to reduced productivity.
- And a further £2.4 billion is lost replacing staff who leave work because of mental ill-health.
- Per employee, the average costs of poor mental health to the business is £2,068
The good news…
- For every £1 spent by employers on mental health interventions, they get £5 back in reduced absence, presenteeism and staff turnover
- An even higher return on investment can be achieved with early interventions, such as organisation-wide culture change and education, than more in-depth support that may be needed at a later stage when a person is struggling.
You can use these to build a case for mental health support within the workplace and begin to calculate what that looks like in financial terms for your business. And there are plenty more via the links I’ve included should you need more (all reputable sources, promise!).
3. Use in-house data
Most businesses run some sort of staff survey. If you don’t then this is a very good place to start, so you can understand where people are at in your team (*cough, cough* I can do this for you!).
Work with HR or whoever runs the survey. What are people saying? Are they stressed, complaining about workloads or worried about deadlines? Are they asking for more support? Perhaps even asking for wellbeing support? Are there any other signs that things aren’t going well for people?
Numbers are helpful but you will get most of this from the verbatims. It takes time and effort to go through them but it’s worth it.
What about your absence data? Has there been a spike in days off or maybe you’re seeing an increase in longer periods of absence? This can be a strong indication that things aren’t as they should be. Maybe they even have info specific to mental health absence. Again, the more specific you can be (whilst protecting confidentiality) the stronger your case will be.
What about engagement? Are your team less motivated, less driven, less interested?
How’s performance and productivity? Has the business and/or people slowed,stagnated or even declined recently?
Again, all these things are symptomatic of low workplace wellbeing and the need for wellbeing support.
Don’t boil everything down to numbers. Data and ‘official’ sources of info are really helpful but never ignore the general sentiment inside the business.
What are people saying? How’s the mood? What topics keep popping up in “water cooler conversations” or meetings that cause tension/withdrawal? Use this information to flesh out the data and strengthen your business case for mental health support.
N.B be conscious of confidentiality here!
4. Brand and Reputation
Do you promote a ‘healthy work-life balance’ yet see people are dropping like flies?
Is a ‘friendly vibe’ part of your employee branding yet your team is disengaged and unconnected? Are you investing in corporate social responsibility initiatives but overlooking your immediate team’s needs and challenges?
Your business and it’s reputation are only as strong as your employees. If they aren’t healthy the business isn’t either. And this ill-health will become common knowledge and impact your ability to retain and attract talent.
I’ve lost count of the times I found out about dismissals, hires or general gossip from someone who worked outside of my company before it was shared inside of it.
Good news travels fast, as the old saying goes.
But I would argue that bad news travels faster.
With work-life being lived out on social media and an increasing reliance on employee advocacy, people need to BE and FEEL looked after, cared for and understood by the business.
Just like we did with the Business strategy and priorities at the start, you should use your brand/business values to frame the importance of mentally fit and healthy staff and a set of actions that could be undertaken to provide wellbeing support.
5. Make it Human
Us humans love a story. A narrative will help the powers-that-be understand why giving your team mental health or wellbeing support is so important for them and the business
A real example of individuals that have received support and the benefit it has had can be really compelling when you are trying to get a green light.
Perhaps you know another company that has done something similar and can use them as a case study?
If not then there are plenty of reputable online sources that you can use to show the human, individual and business impact that workshops, training and other support resources can have.
Try and choose one that best reflects your business and/or the challenges that your team are currently facing.
Mental Health First Aid England has plenty and Mind is another great resource for case studies, tools and much, much more.
6. Buddy up
We all know the importance of having an ally (or two) when we are trying to complete a project, make changes in the business or get backing for our next promotion.
The same is true when we are looking to get mental health support for our team.
Talk to members of the leadership team, colleagues, other managers. Plant the seed. Bring it back into conversation (without being a gigantic nag) as often as you can.
Share the reason why you think it’s important (tip: you can start sharing all the stuff you have worked out above with them.)Then encourage them to start similar conversations with others.
If you can’t get the funding signed off directly, you can use a critical mass to influence the decision makers opinion.
7. Bring in reinforcements
Doing all this alone can be daunting. Especially when it’s on top of your normal workload and when you aren’t trained or experienced in dealing with mental health and wellbeing.
Getting an external expert in can help you make a case in a more objective way which can help add some weight to your arguments.
If you need some help to put your business case together, an expert to back you up you can book a call with me here.
I offer a range of workshops, training and one to one support and I’ll be happy to help you find solutions that support your team and meet business needs.
If you’d like to some tips on how to remove overwhelm, avoid burnout and nurture your mental health then sign up for my monthly memo “things that help” below.