Mental Health

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Mental health has undoubtedly become the Wellbeing cause of the moment, easily surpassing physical health initiatives in terms of profile and the number of initiatives.

At the time of writing (September 2021), it is common to see employers announcing ‘Mental Health’ days as a new employee benefit. Tech companies, keen to demonstrate their ‘progressive’ workplace culture proudly announced that they were giving their employees the week off to ‘help with burnout’ incurred during lockdown.

Established brands, such as Nike, have since followed suit. Their stated rationale is to acknowledge the extraordinary impact of lockdown on the mental health of workers, particularly in the context of attaining an acceptable work/life balance, and to help redress the damage.

Other tactics adopted include a ban on video calls on a Friday and the publication of a list of things ‘It’s OK to’ (Google) such as having poor WiFi and wanting to cry. Whatever these tactics achieve, they certainly make for great PR. 

Is the shift towards mental health here to stay?

The key question that accompanies any tactic associated with lockdown (including the great Return to Office debate) is whether this is just a fad or whether it marks a permanent shift in workplace culture.

Workplace relations are a constantly shifting balance of power between employers and employees and, whilst the interest of employees is in the ascendant at the tail end of an extraordinary period of enforced remote working, it remains to be seen whether there will be a marked return to the mean once the holiday season is over.

The recognition of ‘mental health’ as a concept akin to physical health is now well established, however, and is here to stay. This recognition has been especially prominent in the context of men, for whom acknowledgment of issues related to the mind had historically been taboo or, at very least, regarded as a sign of weakness and a source of shame.

Certain key public figures, starting with Antonio Horta-Osario who, in 2011 took eight weeks off for stress-related insomnia not long after taking on the role of CEO of Lloyds Banking Group in 2011. He was criticised at the time in a way that reflected the implicit assumptions about mental health issues being a sign of weakness and a source of shame. 

Since then various celebrity males including Prince Harry and Tyson Fury have made much of their struggles with mental health. 

These two were significant as they came from traditionally macho male occupations (the Royal Marines and heavyweight boxing respectively) so were able to change the narrative by admitting to struggling with their mental health.

Financial health as an underlying cause

Mental health is complex. It takes many forms and is affected by a variety of underlying factors. One factor that is often overlooked is the relationship between financial health and mental health.

Financial wellbeing is closely linked to mental health and studies have concluded that financial stress has a significant impact on employee health and productivity in the UK.

Workplace research has consistently found that an increase in salary does not eliminate stress. In some cases, it simply shifts the focus of stress to another area.

PwC found that, for working people in the US, those earning both more and less than $75,000 per annum most frequently cited not having enough emergency savings as their principal financial concern.

Like other forms of health, financial health is a long-term habit, not a destination. Its attainment requires individuals to develop the correct skills, knowledge, and attitudes whilst being able to access relevant digital financial products and services.

Level strongly believes that corporate mental health programmes should include financial wellbeing solutions and financial health metrics in order to be effective. Thanks to the salary-link, the unique relationship that firms have with their employees, employers are at the forefront of financial health solutions.

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