How You Can Support Your Employees’ Mental Health

The Stevenson-Farmer independent review into workplace mental health revealed today that 300,000 people with a long-term mental health problem lose their jobs each year.

Poor mental health costs employers up to £42 billion a year, with an annual cost to the UK economy of up to £99 billion. But this should not be an insurmountable problem. There are things that all employers can do around mental health to help their employees and benefit their businesses.

I’m proud to say that Aviva was one of the few examples included in the report as an employer who supports employee wellbeing – both physical and mental.

During the past year I have being helping to lead Aviva’s wellbeing programme for our employees. I have been on a mission to listen to our people about the types of support they need, not just for their mental wellbeing, but for all aspects of their lives. Our wellbeing programme looks at the whole person and their health, from physical fitness and nutrition to financial security and the benefits of contributing to the community. That’s how Wellbeing@Aviva was born.

Our focus on mental health is not just about mental illness, but about helping our employees maintain a balanced and happy state of mind in the same way as we look after our physical health. We have a range of initiatives and resources to support employees, many of which are available on our internal website for people to download and read or to chat to their colleagues about. All of our leaders attend mental health training, which comprises three hours of learning to equip them with ways of talking with their team members about these matters, and to support them when needed.

Our app, called Aviva Wellbeing, allows our people to set themselves goals and challenges across the whole wellbeing spectrum – from physical challenges, to getting a good night’s sleep or reducing stress. It also provides helpful advice and guidance about how to achieve their goals.

My colleague Gemma Sandwell has been working with Headspace for some time to manage the roll out of mindfulness to our people. For her, that has meant travelling around the UK in June and July running mindfulness sessions in our offices and collaborating with colleagues who are as enthusiastic as she about the benefits of creating safe spaces for people to establish a regular practice. It’s only been a short time, but we are already excited to think about the ripple effect we are creating within our organisation and the wider communities in which we operate. We have already had stories about people mindfully cooking with their families and introducing their children to mindfulness.

For Aviva, wellbeing is individual and personal – it’s also interlinked. People don’t come to work just as a brain or a body, they come as an entire person with strengths and passions and differing needs. With Wellbeing@Aviva we offer a flexible, tailored approach, so that people can engage with what they want and when they want it. This is just the start for us, and our intention is to continue build a culture of care within our workplace.