Author Bio ▼

Heather Beach is Founder and Managing Director of The Healthy Work Company and has been running businesses in health and safety for over 20 years. Having run Barbour, SHP and Safety and Health Expo, she is now running her own business. The Healthy Work Company provides solutions which drive the wellbeing agenda to enable thriving in the workplace at all levels. Offering more than simply training, it delivers strategic support for your wellbeing programme. "We are driving the mental health agenda towards how human beings thrive in life – often through work, not in spite of it!"Heather can be reached on [email protected].
March 4, 2020

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Updating your wellbeing business case for 2020

Already in 2020 there have been two interesting reports published to support your business case for organisational wellbeing – one from Deloitte and one from Robertson Cooper. I have also finally clicked (thanks to our client – Ruth Denyer at ITV) of the importance of psychological safety as a lever in driving wellbeing strategy so forgive me for combining some 2020 information with some older research. 

Mental HealthI got terribly excited reading the new Deloitte report Jan 2020 Mental health and employers | Refreshing the case for investment, because the evidence for investment has got stronger – and the report also shows the most effective interventions from an ROI perspective so I wanted to send it on immediately to our clients. Then I saw it was 70 pages long. So please don’t all thank me at once, but I have summarised it. I have combined this with other recent research.

Before I start, my beef with this conversation in the way Deloitte deal with it is that having ourselves as an organisation made the switch to talking  about wellbeing – incorporating our physical and mental health – how we feel about ourselves and our lives, talking about mental health alone feels outdated. How we untangle in our sickness absence data someone off with a mental health issue as opposed to someone off with a series of infections, musculoskeletal problems or gastric disorders (who are undoubtedly struggling mentally and physically), I am not sure. We have still not as a society made the leap that we are talking about whole human beings here.

Regardless, this report represents a combination of Deloitte’s own evaluation to update their 2017 report and also takes from other sources such as Mind, Vitality and BITC.

Some positives are found to have taken place over the last three years including greater support for mental health issues – particularly in large organisations and an increase in awareness and reduction of stigma at work.

The negative changes they found include an increase of mental ill health at work among young people specifically, a rise in the inability of all to disconnect – leading to burnout; and an increase in short-term contracts leading to uncertainty. Furthermore, the cost of poor mental health to employers has seen a rise of 16% up £6bn on the 2017 report (to £42-45bn annually). This is primarily driven by presenteeism costs (coming to work despite poor health and underperforming), making up between £27-29bn of this a rise of £9bn.

(One fact which made me giggle – 1 in 5 CEOs surveyed believe that their organisation supports those with mental health problems very well – the number of junior managers who agreed was half this.)

Burnout, stress and being human

Return on investment high for training

Deloitte now finds that on average employers obtain a return of £5 for every £1 (5:2:1) invested, up from £4 for every £1 spent in 2017. On average, organisation‑wide culture change and awareness raising can provide a ROI of £6 for every £1 invested whilst proactive training specifically provides average ROI of £5 for every £1 invested. Reactive support, such as offering employees therapy or treatment once their mental health had worsened, although an important part of the suite of interventions an employer should offer, provided on average a return of only £3 for every £1 invested.

Investing in a strategic cultural approach

Research by Business in the Community (BITC) showed that work-related mental health problems are caused largely by increased pressure and workload, and lack of support. Negative work relationships, lack of trust in managers and the poor handling of organisational changes are other prominent factors.

Conversely, the report found that employers aware of the importance of supporting wellbeing have an organisational culture of openness, acceptance and awareness. Creating this can include mental health de‑stigmatisation campaigns, mandatory training on wellbeing and activities to support employee resilience. More individuals therefore understand the link between their mental health and productivity, and what to do when they or their colleagues experience challenging circumstances. Research shows these early‑stage supporting activities provide a return of 6:1 on average.

Deloitte recommends embedding the approach in the organisation over the long term and offering a spectrum of interventions. They found positive ROI for the following:

  • Focusing on organisation‑wide activities, providing training universally or to targeted groups;
  • Using technology to reduce cost and increase the likelihood of uptake by limiting the associated stigma;
  • Using diagnostics and screening to help target interventions based on need.

Download the full Deloitte report here.

Since we started The Healthy Work Company, we have believed that as well as understanding the drivers for wellbeing in your organisation (through surveys and employee forums) manager training is the place to start. We offer a day long course which not only trains managers in self-awareness and the importance of self-mastery, but also in having conversations about someone’s wellbeing using ABCD (Awareness, Being present, Co-creating a plan and D for their Duties under e.g. the Equalities Act (2010) and the Health and Safety at Work etc. act). Leaders and managers drive the culture, and we know that your manager has the greatest impact on your wellbeing at work.

We keep a close eye on research from Robertson Cooper, because their equation between wellbeing and the number of “good days at work”  is very much in line with our thinking. They have also released a new report in 2020, urging organisations to consider support for managers in embedding wellbeing strategies. That managers need to be armed first with self-knowledge. That the best managers combine challenge (as boredom can also be stressful) with support.

(The report also looks at their dataset to establish whether men or women are better at doing this and I couldn’t possibly comment on the result!)

Download the Robertson Cooper report here.

Finally, where does psychological safety fit in? As health and safety professionals for some time we have realised the importance of psychological safety – trust in our managers and organisations being necessary if we want our teams to report hazards, near misses etc. What perhaps has been less considered, is the impact of psychological safety on effectiveness and productivity.

Psychological safety is the belief that the environment is safe for interpersonal risk taking. People feel able to speak up when needed — not just from a safety perspective, but with relevant ideas and questions. Psychological safety is present when colleagues trust and respect each other and when radical candour is present.

When Google looked at what made the most effective teams (project Aristotle) they found that individuals on teams with higher psychological safety are less likely to leave Google, they’re more likely to harness the power of diverse ideas from their teammates, they bring in more revenue, and they’re rated as effective twice as often by executives.

The correlation therefore between managers who promote psychological safety and those who promote wellbeing is that they are one and the same thing and we are back to the point that training managers is the most important thing you can do in creating a wellbeing strategy which sticks.

The role of the health and safety professional in wellbeing programmes

The business case for wellbeing can be driven from either health and safety or HR side and ideally, they shouldn’t ignore each other, in creating the plan. The issue with some of the work embarked on by health and safety professionals to date in this field is that they feel they can’t impact manager training but “first aid” fits in with their role. First Aid does not cover your duties or impact as a manager. This can lead to a disjointed approach, so we recommend you form coalitions whilst one of you drives the plan. For some organisations the productivity and moral case are enough. If you are an organisation more driven by the legal side, you should consider leaning on the fact that the Health and Safety at Work Act calls for a risk assessment for stress (see the HSE Management Standards for Stress). From an HR side, Managers should be trained in the Equalities Act 2010.


  • The cost of sickness absence related to mental health and risen to £42-£45bn, mostly driven by an increase in presenteeism.
  • Awareness and training interventions are shown to demonstrate the highest ROI – of £5/£6 for every £1 spent
  • Training managers is integral to any wellbeing plan if it is to be cultural, holistic and to stick. Effective interventions also use technology and targeted using diagnostics and screening to help target interventions based on need.
  • Psychological safety does not just support hazard spotting but also improves team effectiveness and productivity.

The Healthy Work Company is currently working to deliver wellbeing training and support for Mace, ITV, Eurostar, London Array and Saxon Weald.

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