Ahead of Mental Health Awareness Week (9 -13 May) new research from Grant Thornton UK LLP shows that mid-market employers are looking to increase investment in supporting their people’s mental health over the next 12 months.

From the 604 respondents to Grant Thornton’s latest Business Outlook Tracker* survey, around half (47%) intend to increase their investment in mental health support in the coming year. Employer support for mental health has been an increasingly important investment priority for business leaders, with 51% saying they are investing more in their people’s mental health now than they did 12 months ago.

The study found that the pandemic had increased employers’ awareness of the importance of investing in mental health, with half of respondents saying they currently arrange regular mental health check-ins with their people, and train and provide mental health first aiders.

The prevalence of hybrid working is also having a positive effect on general employee wellbeing. Of the businesses surveyed, 310 were adopting a hybrid working approach and most of these businesses (65%) believe it is improving their people’s wellbeing.

Whilst mental health is clearly high on the agenda for business leaders, more support is needed for mid-market employers in developing programmes and policies to do this effectively, with 21% of respondents saying they don’t currently have a clearly articulated mental health strategy.

Sue Knight, Partner and Practice Leader at Grant Thornton UK LLP in the Midlands, said:

“We know that healthy people are more likely to have higher functioning cognitive capacity and therefore are better able to respond to stress. At Grant Thornton, our people take pride in delivering outstanding service for clients, and that can be challenging. When people have a high functioning, healthy stress response, challenge can energise performance, often enabling us to perform at our best by helping us to think quickly, solve problems and interact fully.

“However, this balance can easily tip, so we need to be vigilant in looking out for the signs of burnout in ourselves and others, putting effort and conscious action in place to mitigate for that. If we care for our brain in the same way as we care for our physical bodies, it supports us to be more resilient to pressure and change, creating sustainable healthy performance in organisations.

“Here at Grant Thornton, we are creating a culture of living well by investing in psychological, physical and financial health our people. To highlight the importance of mental health in the workplace in line with Mental Health Awareness week, we’re encouraging all our people managers to complete structured check ins (one to one conversations) about health and wellbeing with their direct reports within the month of May.”

Five key ways we’re supporting the mental health of our people:

· Our people can confidentially discuss the things that are affecting them with a Mental Health First Aider (a colleague who is trained to listen, reassure and respond, even in a crisis)
· Visible leadership and open discussions on issues so that our people can learn more by hearing stories from colleagues (Read Laurelin Griffiths’ mental health story)
· We offer specific training and resources for managers focussing on how they can support their team’s mental health
· Our people can get practical assistance and emotional support from our Employee Assistance Programme 24/7, online, in person or on the phone on any issue however big or small
· We provide training and resources to all our people that help them to develop a better understanding of how their brains respond to stress and how they can adopt positive habits – for example exercise, sleep and diet