Less than half of businesses have an integrated Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy.

Many firms are focusing on mental health, but experts urge businesses to take a more holistic look at how they support their workforces. Less than half (44 per cent) of UK employers have an overarching strategy in place; research has found, raising concerns that, despite marked investment in health and benefits, employer activity in this area lacks strategic focus.

A poll of 332 HR professionals in the Aon 2021 UK Benefits and Trends Survey found that while the majority had formal strategies in place for specific needs such as mental and physical wellbeing (76 and 61 per cent respectively), there was a notable lack of an overarching, comprehensive strategy tying them together.

Moreover, a fifth (22 per cent) of those surveyed said they did not intend to devise a strategy within the next 12-18 months, while 70 per cent did not have a designated budget for health and wellness. Studies suggest that employees perceive Covid’s impact on wellbeing ‘far more negatively’ than HR departments currently do.

So is a mental health pandemic in the workplace on the horizon? Is it already here? Given a survey reveals that two-thirds of employees already feel less connected working from home, the answer seems glaringly obvious.

Mark Witte, head of health and risk consulting at Aon, said. At the same time, there was no shortage of investment in health and benefits generally or of support for specific issues, and employers often lacked a strategic focus when it came to wellbeing.

“There is a danger that the impact of the pandemic means employers focus the majority of their efforts on emotional and mental initiatives,” Witte said. “While this is vitally important, we urge employers to ensure the other pillars of wellbeing are not forgotten.” These include physical, financial and social wellbeing.

Witte added that the past year’s events had elevated the importance of employee health as a “business-critical issue”. “This year will undoubtedly see continued focus on wellbeing activity with a greater demand for data and insight to help not just strategy design, but also better measure value and return on investment,” he said.

The survey found just 9 per cent of businesses actively measured their return on investment from their wellbeing programmes, despite it being a crucial way to assess and tailor them to their employees’ needs. Past studies have found that a lack of data hinders organisations’ efforts to track and measure the effectiveness of their wellbeing initiatives.

Last year, in research from AXA, two-fifths (43 per cent) of employers cited poor-quality data as a hindrance. In comparison, 25 per cent said a lack of data analytics expertise was a barrier to proving effectiveness. Jonny Gifford, senior adviser for organisational behaviour at the CIPD, said the issue of good-quality data urgently needed addressing. “Data should be relevant, representative, valid – in that it measures what it sets out to measure – and reliable. Unfortunately, it is most often not,” he said.

That is why here at K2 Associates, we take a Psychological approach and believe that measurement of outcomes is essential and to do so, having a clear aim, strategy and policy in place guides what is to be measured and therefore serves as a critical piece of the mental health and wellbeing puzzle that indicates how your organisation is performing.