Senior management is failing to support workplace wellbeing, study finds

For businesses to implement effective mental wellbeing strategies, senior management must start providing better support

A lack of senior management support for wellbeing is preventing businesses from tackling mental health in the workplace, according to a survey of HR leaders by corporate wellbeing expert, Westfield Health.

Westfield Health’s study of over 400 HR leaders found that almost a third (31%) said a lack of buy-in from senior leaders was the biggest barrier to implementing wellbeing strategies, ahead of limited budgets (25%) and even a lack of time (12%).

This apathy could be stopping businesses tackling mental health issues in the workplace, which 45% of HR leaders identified as their biggest wellbeing challenge. Stress (22%), poor engagement (18%) and physical health (10%) were also identified as major issues in the workplace.

Vicky Walker, Head of People at Westfield Health, said: “This pandemic has placed businesses in an extreme climate, testing the wellbeing and flexibility of companies with little warning. Some have embraced this challenge, altered their wellbeing approach and will benefit as a result, but others are yet to see wellbeing as an important strategic tool to aid recovery. If HR leaders can get support from the top-down, then we can work together to create happier, healthier, thriving companies.”

Earlier in the year, research for Westfield Health’s Divided Together report found that 35% of HR leaders across the UK have increased their wellbeing budgets, with the same percentage planning to continue investing into the future.

Despite progress being made, this latest insight reveals there are still significant obstacles to the implementation of wellbeing strategies. In addition to a lack of buy-in from senior leadership (31%), those asked cited limited budgets (25%), limited interest from staff (22%) and lack of time (12%) as barriers for wellbeing implementation.

When looking to measure the impact of wellbeing programmes to justify the spend at boardroom level, HR leaders believe increased engagement (64%) to be the biggest indicator of success, followed by reduced absence levels (17%), reduced staff turnover (11%) and increased productivity (8%). 

Vicky Walker continues: “With the benefits of happier workers, better retention rates and higher productivity, there is a powerful argument for investing in wellbeing as a core element to strengthen a company. Getting a clear baseline of employee wellbeing needs through surveys, then tracking the implementation and impact of programmes will help HR teams make a case for starting, sustaining or even increasing investment in wellbeing programmes.

“Putting wellbeing first isn’t just about investment – it’s about culture. With genuine, visible and consistent support from senior leaders, companies will be able to make health and wellbeing an integral part of how they do business. That in turn, leads to reduced turnover, increased productivity and happier, more engaged teams – benefits no business can currently afford to ignore.”
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