To mark the start of Mental Health Awareness Week, Make UK has launched a series of podcasts, hosted by former BBC journalist Jonty Bloom, exploring best practice across UK companies in dealing with wellbeing and mental health issues

Make UK research has revealed that businesses which prioritise the wellbeing of their employees see a dramatic reduction in absenteeism, retain their staff for longer and see a boost in productivity.

With £14 billion being lost annually across industry from mental health issues affecting the workforce, 80% of HR directors now say that wellbeing is of major importance in terms of business priorities. Here, in this exclusive series of podcasts, former BBC Business Editor Jonty Bloom interviews companies and experts to drill down into the best practice out there, from large companies to SMEs – all of whom, regardless of size, are making a real difference with the programmes they offer.

He speaks to Minister for Disabled people, Health and Work, Chloe Smith MP who tells how there a real shift in perception over attitudes to mental health and an increased willingness from both individuals to speak about their personal issues and from employers keen to have conversations with their employees. She reveals how absenteeism and presenteeism – where workers are not fully engaged in what they are doing - costs around £50billion a year to UK business and that Government continues to work closely with HSE on wellbeing and mental health solutions and sees this as a key priority.

Make UK’s Health, Safety and Sustainability Director Andrew Ward drills down into how companies are helping support their staff and how Make UK can help businesses achieve their support goals. Alison Corner, HR Director at skills experts Enginuity looks at how the pandemic has dramatically accelerated the wellbeing agenda across UK companies and what the best support looks like now. Laura McBrown, MD at G&B Electronics  - whose company stayed open throughout the Covid crisis - has developed bespoke wellbeing packages for staff, with different offerings for those who had to work from home during the pandemic and something tailored for those who were working operationally on site throughout. She explains how the return on this investment in people is palpable but that it is vital to keep on listening to staff.

Rachel Newman, Head of People, Policy & Support RNLI explains how mental health has long been a priority for the organisation with physical and mental health seen as equal players. They have a  dedicated occupational health team to give bespoke guidance and support to staff whenever they need it, and have both reactive and preventative programmes available for all staff. A special trauma support programme has been developed to deal with the immediate aftermath of crisis situations and the longer-term aftermath. Resilience training is offered internally to all staff to boost wellbeing across the whole organisation.

Finally, Dr Shaun Lundy, Director for Strategy & Innovation, Tetra Consultancy, is an adviser to Make UK, and in this podcast reveals best practice in wellbeing delivery across some of Britain’s largest companies – including BT and GlaxoSmithKline. Culture change is key to making an impact in this area, and the buy in from senior staff is critical to success.

Jamie Cater, Senior Policy Manager at Make UK, the manufacturers organisation said:" Britain’s manufacturers have come on in leaps and bounds in terms of the importance they give to the wellbeing and mental health of their employees. Our latest survey showed that those companies which had put in place good and strong wellbeing programmes were being rewarded with less absenteeism, higher productivity and had staff who stayed with the company for much longer. This payback on investment in people is now embedded in manufacturing companies. Without doubt the pandemic accelerated the need to provide good programmes to promote wellbeing at a time workers were under unprecedented pressures

“However, going forwards, it is clear that wellbeing and mental health remains a key issue and is now a part of the majority of business plans for our member companies and we hope this podcast series will give companies some new ideas and inspire them to continue on this vital journey to deliver the very best staff wellbeing.”

In addition to the Mental Health Week campaign, Make UK is partnering with HSE on their Working Minds campaign which, as well as raising awareness on the importance of mental health in the workplace, offers a range of tools and support to help businesses understand the best ways to prevent work related stress and encourage good mental health.

Working Minds - Work Right to keep Britain safe (campaign.gov.uk)

Working Minds Campaign

Click here for, The Importance of Mental Health Podcasts | Make UK