10 Oct 2022

Looking after employee’s mental wellbeing mustn’t be neglected when HR budgets are slashed

On World Mental Health Day (10 October) Adrian Lewis, Director at Activ People HR warns that workers mental health mustn’t be neglected even if HR budgets are tightened as the UK faces an epidemic of mental health issues.

His comments come as new research from Personio found that more than half (55%) of HR teams across the UK expect to have their budgets cut in the next few months as the economy worsens[i].  61% said they worried budget cuts would negatively affect employees’ motivation and productivity.

Other recent research by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy[ii] found that two thirds (66%) of therapists say cost of living concerns are causing a decline in people’s mental health and six in 10 (61%) therapists say their clients are anxious about whether they can afford to pay their household bills.

Adrian said, “The cost of living crisis, escalating energy bills and rising inflation are having a huge impact on both businesses and employees. Wellbeing often sits in the HR budget and whilst it’s easy to see why this may need to be cut, it’s important this isn’t at the expense of looking after people’s mental wellbeing.

“Employees are facing an incredibly tough time with their finances which is impacting their mental health. This is coming after the pandemic years where people’s mental health got worse. Now is not the time to stop supporting employees. Instead employers need to look at ways they can support employee’s mental wellbeing to ensure productivity doesn’t suffer.”

Global research by Allianz Partners in 2021 stressed the importance of employers investing in health and wellbeing support and services to ensure a sustainable and productive workforce, as many staff are still dealing with the mental health challenges of the pandemic[iii].

This year the NHS Confederation[iv] said the pandemic had caused a dramatic rise in the numbers experiencing mental health problems, with projections that 10 million people in England will need new or additional support for their mental health over the next three to five years dubbing it the second pandemic[v].

Adrian adds, “Looking after an employee’s mental health not only makes life better for them, it increases the companies’ productivity as people feel happier and more motivated to work. Continuing to have mental health support in place is even more vital now as the UK faces a difficult economic period and we hope employers don’t lose sight of this and that mental health remains a priority, as it has been for many companies since the pandemic.

“Often the key is recognising that someone has an issue in the first place and this is where investing in HR technology such as absence management software can help. Not only does it track all types of absence it helps managers spot patterns of behaviour such as someone always off on a Monday or an increase in sick leave – signs someone may be struggling.

“It prompts return to work interviews which are an opportunity to open up a conversation around why someone has been off, which could reveal issues. This enables managers to help if it’s an issue they can deal with such as someone stressed because of a heavy workload or direct people to support such as EAPs and counselling services if needed.

“On World Mental Health Day we urge employers to think long and hard before slashing HR budgets which could in turn could lead to less mental health support for employees as other HR areas take precedent.  Looking after employee health and wellbeing is business critical, as the workforce can make or break a business in terms of output and morale. ”

For more information on Activ People HR visit: www.activpeoplehr.co.uk.

[i] https://www.hrmagazine.co.uk/content/news/hr-at-risk-of-budget-cuts-as-economy-worsens

[ii] https://www.bacp.co.uk/news/news-from-bacp/2022/8-september-cost-of-living-crisis-survey-shows-impact-on-mental-health/#:~:text=Two%20thirds%20(66%25)%20of,to%20pay%20their%20household%20bills.

[iii] https://www.allianzcare.com/en/about-us/news/2021/10/mental-health-report.html

[iv] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2022/feb/21/england-second-pandemic-mental-health-issues-nhs-covid

[v] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2022/feb/21/england-second-pandemic-mental-health-issues-nhs-covid