Today marks the first day of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week. And, as the second Mental Health Awareness Week since the pandemic struck, it’s an opportunity for all businesses to remember the importance of proactively ensuring mental health is at the top of the agenda.
This past year has been a challenge for so many people, with research from Business in Community estimating that 41% of employees have reported to have experienced mental health symptoms caused, or made worse, by work over the past year.
That is on top of widely recognised figures that one in four of us are struggling with some form of mental health issue.
Mental health concerns are growing every year and we, as responsible private equity investors, have an important role to play in ensuring best practice is shared, adopted and prioritised when it comes to company culture and wellbeing.
To put things into perspective, if a quarter of the UK population has some form of mental health issue, that means a portfolio of our size at NorthEdge, which collectively employs around 6,900 people, will have over 1,700 team members that are being impacted by mental health concerns. Across the private equity industry, which employs 972,000 people according to the BVCA, over 240,000 members of staff face this challenge.
It’s estimated that poor employee mental health costs UK businesses between £42bn and £45bn each year, according to a study by Deloitte. The average cost per employee is £1,652 in private sector organisations, rising to £3,300 per employee in the finance, insurance and real estate industries. Only £18bn of the cost to UK employers is caused by absence and staff turnover, two thirds is caused by an increasing rate of presenteeism – where employees turn up to work despite poor mental health, but are unproductive in the work that they do.
It goes without saying that we must not look at mental health through the lens of financial impact only. However, without putting the correct strategies in place to ensure employees feel supported, motivated and engaged at work the cost of absenteeism and presenteeism – and the mental health challenges that underpin them – will only continue to rise. Mental health is potentially costing a business in the private sector with 100 employees £165,000 per year, with costs disproportionately high among young employees as a proportion of their earnings.
These are figures that can’t be ignored.
With lockdown, and the imminent easing of Covid-19 restrictions, creating new everyday pressures for people, now is a crucial time to ensure that people’s development, health and wellbeing, are at the heart of value creation plans – because we know that those plans will only ever deliver long-term results if the people who drive the business are aligned, engaged and feel motivated to perform.
A study by Harvard Business Review found that there is a statistical link between employee wellbeing and customer satisfaction, which is supported by a recent Forbes article that states “while it’s good to have a “customer is king” mindset, it’s just as important to remember the other people whose happiness is vital to your organisation’s success. Becoming a customer-centric business is always worthwhile, if you want to add a serious competitive edge, concentrate on offering a great employee experience first.”
That’s why we’re increasingly sharing learnings and best practice with our portfolio, ensuring that we prioritise and normalise the conversation on mental wellbeing and mental fitness across our network.
This year the theme for Mental Health Awareness Week is Nature. According to research by the Mental Health Foundation 45% of people reported being in green spaces had been vital for their mental health. To encourage members of team NorthEdge to get out of the house and away from their desks we launched the ‘NorthEdge March March’, running, walking or cycling as many miles as possible throughout the month of March to raise money for the Trafford General Hospital Intermediate Neurological Rehab Unit. We are thrilled to have raised over £26,000 for travelling 3,116 miles together, even though we have been apart.
Other practical steps we are taking include investing in mental health first aiders for our business and supporting our portfolio to do the same, providing access to personal leadership training, giving our people the confidence and opportunity to take ownership and think for themselves, and providing a safe space for our colleagues to speak up and talk about their mental health and wellbeing.
We are committed to continuously working with our management teams to share ideas and insight, using our newly launched community platform, Nexus, to provide support networks for our portfolio to access whenever they need.
While Mental Health Awareness Week is only here for seven days, mental health is with us all 365 days a year. Let’s make a commitment to work together to keep talking, supporting and learning about this increasingly important area.