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Mental Health at Work – The Great £20m Robbery & Creating a Business Case

mental health at work

“If you had an organisation with a £20m hole in it, you’d be all over it like a rash.  Because its mental health it’s ignored.

 “The challenge is to come up with a business case to highlight this cost.”

Stated by a senior partner at a global accounting firm with whom I met recently.

I knew I had to accept it when, soon afterwards, I was at an HR conference and one of the participants on the panel stated:

“There’s no business case for mental health at work”

While the rest of the panel seemed to agree, I could not. I knew that if an organisation had a £20m hole in the P&L caused by:

  • a health and safety issue
  • poor product quality, or
  • project over runs

It would not be acceptable – significant action would be taken to sort it.

One of the reactions we get when we explain what we do at Headtorch is to dismiss it as a bit pink and fluffy – so let’s debunk that myth.

After some research, we have our business case and it’s developed by The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), no less. You can therefore guarantee that it is very well-researched.

The NICE tool uses absence, presenteeism and staff turnover to identify the cost of bad mental health at work.

The results will surprise you.

NICE gives an example for an organisation with 1,000 employees …

… the cost of mental ill health at work will be £835,000.

The numbers speak for themselves and give a reasonable estimate for what it’s costing at an organisational level.

NICE also offers hope – based on the research it’s done, it estimates that 30% of these costs can be saved by taking simple steps.

In the above example with 1,000 employees, this equates to £250,000.  Imagine the impact by taking serious action.

The bottom line is:

  • Taking action on mental health at work will save you a small fortune and you’ll get a good return on every pound you spend
  • It will also keep you on the right side of the law (more on this next month)
  • And for employees who work for organisations that take action: you are going to feel more engaged, be less likely to have a mental health issue, and even if you do, you’ll recover quicker and better.

So let me lay down a challenge to all the decision makers out there – give it a try, take action on mental health at work and reap the rewards. 

Mental health ain’t fluffy!


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