Research conducted by the Sussex Innovation Catalyst team on behalf of workplace wellbeing specialists Do Something Different has identified mental health – including stress, anxiety and resilience – as one of the major themes for health and wellbeing initiatives in 2016. Catalyst researchers interviewed wellbeing managers in a broad cross-section of UK employers, and the findings were recently published in a report by Do Something Different.

Mental health is seen as an increasingly important facet of workplace health and wellbeing. 35% of all work-related ill-health cases in 2014/15 were due to stress, and 43% of all working days lost due to ill-health were attributed to stress. The report showed that a number of different employees are putting a focus on mental wellbeing by de-stigmatising mental health, supporting staff, and putting into place programmes designed for tackling mental health problems.

Three Major challenges were revealed in the in-depth telephone interviews. These were:

– Accessibility of wellbeing initiatives across large companies
– Engaging the whole workforce in the initiatives being run
– Measuring the return on investment and success of these programs

Regarding accessibility, Judith Grant, the Group Head of Occupational Health and Wellbeing at Royal Mail, stated that the scalability of wellbeing initiatives was a problem, and being able to reach their 143,000 employees is difficult. To communicate their wellbeing initiatives, the Royal Mail uses multiple channels, such as an intranet, TV programmes, team meetings and a company newspaper.

Methods within other companies included newsletters, eBulletins and mailing lists, but a possible solution agreed upon by most respondents was that mobile access is the right direction for reaching the most people.

Engaging staff in these programmes is difficult since a single approach won’t work for every person within a company. Many businesses explained that they tackle this by tailoring their approaches to a diverse workforce. This is especially relevant to companies with varied shift patterns, such as the Greater Manchester Police or the NHS. Recent research has shown that 46% of employers cite lack of time as the biggest obstacle to increased participation in wellness programmes.

Engagement can be improved by creating programmes that are individually tailored, flexible to individuals’ time concerns, and allow employees to choose the areas they most want to target. All respondents said that collecting meaningful, accurate data is essential for the success of these wellbeing programs, but that collecting this information is a universal challenge.

Nikki Kirbell of Unilever has tried to tackle this by collecting anonymous data and using it to formulate the company’s wellbeing strategy. Other companies use anonymous surveys, questionnaires and other performance indicators, such as reductions in absences due to sickness, to shape the direction their programmes move in. A way of measuring change is to set and integrate benchmarks of behaviours before and after a programme, and use this data to both demonstrate and steer programmes towards further success.

Read the full report here.