Mental health is employers’ top L&D priority

Jamie Sharp

Writer & Blogger

Research by DeltaNet International has shown that learning and development professionals believe mental health and well-being are the most important eLearning topics for the foreseeable months. This is closely followed by strategies to manage stress for employees, as 88% of employers are worried about how the cost-of-living crisis is affecting their employees.

The importance being placed on mental well-being is evidenced by the fact employers are ranking it as more critical than diversity and inclusion, cybersecurity and health and safety.

Additionally, half of those surveyed have stated that their learning and development budgets would remain unchanged irrespective of the increased pressures caused by the current economic climate.

Chris Chappell, Head of Content at DeltaNet International, said, ‘Given the current economic situation we find ourselves in, it’s unsurprising that mental health support and stress management are topping the agenda for learning and development priorities. Businesses must support colleagues as best as possible to maintain a contented and productive workforce, but many still have not acted. Whilst good rates of pay and benefits schemes are key to helping people through the cost-of-living crisis, there is much more we can do to support employees, and training plays a key role in this.’

Over half of employers are so concerned with the effect the current cost-of-living crisis is having on their employee’s mental health that they are considering implementing practical training, for example, financial planning.

However, worryingly, the results from the DeltaNet International survey show that Line Managers are not benefiting from the investment in training required to spot the signs in their teams of people who are struggling with the rising cost of living. In fact, only 27% of learning and development professionals planned to provide the necessary training.

The importance of well-being in the workplace

Mental health issues are more common than you imagine, affecting one in four people over the course of their lifetime and can have a significant impact on employee well-being. For example, mental health problems can be a major cause of long-term absence from work, and this can be helped, to a degree, by employers recognising this and providing support for employees experiencing mental health problems, including anxiety and depression.

The Mental Health at Work Commitment provides a framework that allows businesses to put in place the actions necessary to support better mental health outcomes for their employees. In addition, it links to practical tools to help employers implement the six standards in the commitment.

One of the most essential skills managers should have to improve well-being in the workplace is having the skills and knowledge to recognise when a member of their team is struggling with mental health issues and signpost them to expert support – for example, their GP or referring them to occupational health.

To improve well-being in the workplace, it is critical to address the root cause of your employees’ stress and mental health issues. Research by CIPD shows that the leading cause of work-related stress is unmanageable workloads and unrealistic timescales.

Reviewing job design and workloads will help to alleviate this source of stress and anxiety; other areas that can be addressed to improve well-being in the workplace include:

  • Increasing the awareness of how to access employer-funded support, including employee assistance programs and counselling services
  • Promote work-life balance
  • Offer flexible working

Your workforce should feel they are supported, and your business has the help and support in place to ensure their well-being at work.

The benefits of practical support for well-being at work

According to the Thriving at Work report, poor mental health costs the UK between £33 billion and £42 billion annually and is the most significant cause of sickness absence.

Investing time and resources into staff well-being provides many benefits and adopting a proactive and preventative approach will give you a happy, effective workforce.

Increased employee commitment and productivity – employees who feel their well-being is a priority and are listened to will most likely be more engaged in your business’s goals and work collaboratively, achieving increased productivity.

Increased staff retention – a culture that shows that it cares about its employees and is loyal and invested in them is more likely to retain its employees for the long term and consequently slash its recruitment costs.

Reduced sick days taken and lower absenteeism – if your staff feel you take their well-being seriously and have adopted strategies to ensure they are as healthy and happy at work as possible, will take fewer sick days and return from periods of sickness more quickly than previously.

A resilient workforce – building resilience by improving employee well-being will help your employees to cope with everyday stresses at work and issues at home, which can help avoid situations from escalating.

Enhanced reputation – being proactive on employee well-being sends a positive message about your business’s values and ethics. It will consequently attract higher-quality talent who want to be associated with that type of organisation.

How organisations are supporting their employees

An extensive global study revealed that of 2,700 employees, 75% feel more socially isolated than before the Covid-19 pandemic, 67% with higher stress levels, 57% are more anxious, and 53% cope with greater emotional exhaustion. Combined with many employees working longer when working from home, the risk of burnout and mental illness is rising.

The World Health Organisation estimates that depression and anxiety cost the global economy $1 trillion in lost productivity annually. To stem this rising tide of mental health issues, your employees deserve your support, so they don’t have to deal with this alone.

Here are some ways to effectively support your employees.

1. Provide counselling and coaching

Giving your employees easy access to mental health professionals. For example, Starbucks is offering hundreds of thousands of employee’s access to 20 free sessions with a mental health therapist or coach.

Red Doorz, a Singapore-based budget hotel booking platform, is doing something similar, offering online sessions by certified psychologists. Their program called Hope Hotline is also open to employees who work at partner hotels.

2. Meditation Apps and other online resources

In the UK, the NHS has partnered with Headspace, an online meditation and mindfulness app, to provide free subscriptions for all employees. Unilever has launched a 14-day mental well-being resilience program for all its employees using tools from the Resilience Research Centre.

3. Allowing greater flexibility and more time off for those who need it

If your employees care for family members, flexibility can be a vital tool to help their mental health. Wattpad employees are actively encouraged to work flexible hours and can compress their work schedule down to four days if they want.


Given the stresses we have endured over the last two and a half years and continue to bear with the current cost of living crisis, mental health and well-being must be front and centre for employers if they want to support their employees and have an effective and happy workforce.

Providing the tools and resources to help your employees cope with the effects of the pandemic and current cost-of-living crisis will reduce sickness, improve productivity and retention, and enhance your reputation as an employer who goes the extra mile for its employees.

Supporting your employee’s mental well-being shouldn’t be considered an additional cost, as ultimately, not acting may prove far more expensive and detrimental to your business.

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