Studies have revealed that poor mental health at work is a widespread issue in the UK, with nearly half (48%) of all people surveyed by mental health charity MIND saying they have experienced a mental health problem in their current job.
Mental health wellness in the workplace has become a growing focus for employers. A 2022 Deloitte report showed that mental ill-health costs businesses £56 billion annually, with poor mental wellbeing linked to lower productivity, increased absences and higher staff turnover.
The workplace is a key setting where transformative action is needed — a finding reported in the World Health Organisation’s 2022 ‘World mental health report: Transforming mental health for all’.
So, how are businesses addressing mental wellbeing among their employees? And what evidence is there that mental wellness programmes have a positive impact?
HSBC has seen real results through supporting a mindfulness programme that sprung organically, at grassroots level within the organisation. Staff in their Sheffield hub pioneered an in-house mindfulness programme led by employee, Business Architect Mari Thorman.
“I came across mindfulness in my 20s, which was really in response to my panic attacks,” explains Mari. “When I joined HSBC, I felt it was something that might be useful for other colleagues to practice, so I started to run some sessions — which went really well.”
What began with a small group of colleagues coming together for weekly mindfulness practise, has expanded into a fully-fledged global programme, rolled out across the entire business.
While Mari was leading sessions among colleagues, HSBC’s UK Chief Information Officer had been practicing mindfulness to reduce headaches.
They joined forces, and together with HR, gained support from senior management to expand the programme, and empower other employees across the business to further develop it.
“The feedback we’re getting from our colleagues in other countries is incredible,” says Ian Bromwich, HSBC’s UK Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer for Retail, Private and Commercial Banking.
“It’s been designed by our employees, and then scaled out by our employees across the bank. It’s supported by an app infrastructure as well, to help colleagues get simple and quick access to this type of information.”
HSBC has noticed a 30% reduction in stress levels amongst staff who have taken the mindfulness programme, and are now running around 40 sessions a week, globally.
The bank has since been recognised and awarded for innovation by the Mindfulness Initiative, a UK body that has worked to support the government and politicians in treating mindfulness as a matter of public policy. Co-Director Jamie Bristow explained why the work of HSBC has been so important.
“Crucially, they focus on high quality, evidence-based mindfulness training, and the interesting thing they’ve done is to develop a kind of community; an eco-system approach, which means that champions of mindfulness — those who have really felt the benefits in their own lives — are empowered and trained up to share it with others in the organisation.”
Play Your Part
Mental Health UK have worked closely with ITN Business to create ‘Play Your Part’ – a unique programme highlighting how everyone has a role to play when it comes to the future of mental health.
Anchored by Dr Sian Williams, the programme explores the effect the cost-of-living crisis has had on our mental health, and showcases the changing conversations around mental health in the workplace. You can watch it here.
Discover more about workplace mental health in our programme The Future of Work.