How do mental health discussions help retain staff?
16 Mayıs 2024

Navigating the new-normal 

Mental health has never been more prevalent and valued than it is today. The pandemic shone a spotlight on mental health stressors, that have in the past been labelled as taboo, establishing an open dialogue, many organisations and charities such as ‘Mind’ have metaphorically picked up the mantle and joined in the fight. 

Depending on how people experienced the pandemic, with each person globally facing both perks and problems, it has altered the ‘new normal’ for everyone. Some saw it as an opportunity to take a mental vacation with more time to spend with family, redecorate homes, and plan for the opportunities that await after the pandemic. However, on the other end of the scale, some suffered through bereavement, declining mental health, and feeling isolated from friends and family. The underlying issue was effectively the feeling of disconnection from society. People tried to stay positive and connected through online quiz nights, exercise, and making the most of the weekly shop. Ultimately, the global long-lasting effects cannot be ignored. 

Now that the period of lockdown has passed, the world of employment is waking up and is more in tune with the mental well-being of every individual. And with this, workplaces have a ‘duty of care’ and a moral obligation to pay attention to their employee’s mental as well as physical well-being, to ensure a positive perspective of the company and to keep staff retention rates at a high. Workplaces are now seeing that mental health issues won’t just disappear; they need to be discussed and addressed. 

So how can this be adequately fulfilled?

Decoding the problem 

Here we’ll investigate two known companies and their goals for supporting mental health in the workplace. A prime example of this is Accenture. This business specialises in aiding companies to improve their performance, through the implementation of operations, software, and technology. They believe that to achieve your career goals, you need to be happy and healthy. So how do they exhibit this? Accenture has trained ‘Mental Health Allies’ who give employees a leg up when they need a source of strength and support, 24 hours a day. As well as this, they provide employees with resources such as Thrive Global, Talkspace, and Calm to ensure members of staff can access additional help where needed. On their website, they share “stories from our people”, exhibiting a place to share how senior members of staff can support those around them. Dr Tam Brownlee states that “It’s not just okay for our people to talk about their mental well-being and get the support they need, when and how they need it—it’s encouraged”. 

So, what impact has this frame of mind had on the staff? 

Let’s start with the statistics. In 2019, Accenture had 492 members of staff. However, by 2023 it had grown to 733. The 49% increase over a difficult period evidently shows that staff are mentally supported enough to want to stay within the company and that the focus on wellness attracts new employees. Additionally, the highest increase in staff members in the past 5 years has been in 2020-2021 (23%), demonstrating they committed to support their staff in a unprecedented period of crisis. Be that as it may, their staff turnover rates are 1.5% higher than other businesses in their industry. A statistic that cannot be narrowed down solely to employee mental health with their reasons for leaving being undisclosed. So, let’s see if this is the same case for other companies. 

How does Accenture compare to other businesses?

Barclays investing in your Mental Health

Taking a look at another company with strong intent to make the workplace a safe place for mental health discussion, we have Barclays. Barclays is an MNC (Multinational Corporation) that supports individuals and businesses as a bank, with its headquarters located in London, UK.  

Barclays hold their employee’s mental well-being as a high priority. Long before the days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Barclays launched a ‘This is Me’ campaign in 2014 in which, they are “committed to building an open culture that is disability and mental health confident”. This attitude towards mental health is a crucial quality to have within a company. Barclays shares personal stories from their employees on their website involving those with disabilities, those recovering from incidents at work, and how Barclays has catered for their mental health issues. Doing so with the hope that it pushes employees to make their voices heard and to talk about the troubles they’re facing, and how it’s affecting their ability to thrive in the workplace. This helps create a positive work environment where their staff are supported, whilst ensuring they take the time to care for their mental health, stressing that vulnerability is not a weakness, but something they should speak up about.  

The question on employers’ minds: is this approach decreasing staff turnover rates? 

The number of staff at Barclays has fluctuated through the years, increasing and declining by as much as 10% each year since 2018. In 2019, pre-pandemic, Barclays had a total of 80’800 employees. And in 2022, it grew to 87’400. With this being only an 8% increase, it may seem like less of an accomplishment when compared to Accenture. However, Barclays hired 6’600 people in this period compared to 241 from Accenture. With the employee turnover rate being 25.6% compared to Accenture’s 26.5%, it’s plausible that having mental health support as a priority does affect the desire to leave or stay within a company. 

However, not everyone has the same experience, even with these mechanisms in place. For example, the resources different generations need can often vary. Many seem to be quite content with a ping pong table in the break room and use that to switch off, stretch their legs, and bond with coworkers. Having said that, Generation Z (Gen-Z) often feel they require more concentrated work benefits around their mental health like a counsellor or mental health days.  

So, is there a reason behind this? They both do the same job with the same workload, right? 

A workplace mosaic - From streetlights to smartphones 

First of all, let’s clarify what we mean by Millennials and ‘Gen-Z’. Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996, and Gen-Z followed from 1997 to 2010. Yet within this seemingly brief 29-year range, you’d think there are only a few differences in their lifetime experiences, but time moves so fast, and so does technology!  

Picture this, a generation where every individual is practically born with a smartphone in hand. There we have Gen-Z! Millennials on the other hand? Communication and contact was as simple as returning home when streetlights came on, and finding your friends by spotting a familiar pile of bikes outside. Gone are the days when you could spy on your siblings’ calls from another line, nowadays you get to know only what they post or share. The younger generation is heavily influenced by the media, with a global connection right at their fingertips, shaping and moulding their view of the outside world. Millennials on the other hand would have to decide between using the home phone or the dial-up internet. Being influenced by 4/5 channels and a newspaper is going to create a unique mindset and culture compared to those who’ve grown up around global disasters plastered over multiple channels and social media. Sure, the internet is a wonderful thing, however, this network is widely believed to be the root cause of excessive stress within Gen-Z.  

This heavily transfers into the workplace. In the UK, a poll taken by Censuswide showed 83% of Gen-Z felt pressure to reach certain milestones in life compared to 77% of millennials. With these circumstances and statistics in mind, there’s no doubt there’s going to be a mosaic of cultures within the workplace. The new era has a huge focus on mental health and well-being, and with the workforce hosting 4.3 million of Gen-Z individuals as of 2022, there are going to be some changes. For example, a lot of Gen-Z didn’t have the same school experience as millennials.  

The pandemic, a common stressor, meant that a lot of the world became habituated to working remotely; they became accustomed to the security of their own home. This is why flexibility from their employer to either come into the office or work from home is a huge factor when choosing a career. This sparked debates between this being a “healthier” work ethic, or some millennials calling it “lazy” and “unprofessional”. It all depends on your personal perspective. Contrary to this, these generations aren’t as different as they may seem in this aspect. The pandemic caused stress for many, with 26% of millennials and 22% of Gen-Z being affected. The key distinction lies in how these challenges are voiced – Gen-Z takes to the internet, a place that has moulded them since childhood, whereas millennials may prefer to meet up with a friend and confide in them. 

Concluding this insight, we have the atmosphere of the office. What do we mean by this? It’s changing with the volume of Gen-Z’s entering the workplace. It’s no secret that offices in the 60s were nothing like the offices we have today, it’s a different culture altogether. Care and concern for employees’ personal lives are starting to become a necessity from superiors. How is an employee meant to give their best if they don’t feel their best? Positivity is productivity at the end of the day, and it’s this mindset that’s being adopted by forward-thinking employers.  

Workplace wellness beyond the desk neighbour 

Let's zoom in on why talking about mental health is crucial for keeping people happy and staying in their jobs. Accenture’s 'Mental Health Allies' encourages people to have open conversations, creating a workplace where support isn't just a service, it's part of the culture. Barclays’ personal stories create an inclusive work atmosphere where it's okay to share your struggles, normalised even. 

With the average person in the UK spending just under 20% of their total waking hours at work, it’s imperative that employees’ mental health must be thriving in these conditions. Mental health in the workplace is more than just a moody desk neighbour. It’s productivity, staff retention, and attendance, which all have the potential to be aided in the workplace. People should be asking their colleagues what they need and how they can make their day-to-day life a little brighter. Whether it’s a coffee in the morning, a brainstorming session with a coworker, being a listening ear, or just guiding and supporting them with getting a helping hand from an organisation or specialist. It’s crucial that all employees support their colleagues.  

As we move through the history of the workplace, from streetlights to smartphones, the presence of Gen-Z brings changes. Employers now care more about their staff's personal lives, realising that positivity is productivity. Prioritizing mental well-being isn't just about keeping staff; it's about creating a workplace where everyone feels valued, both as an employee and a person, hence making it a happy and long-term placement. 

Control Techniques – striving to make a difference in the manufacturing sector  

Striving to transform the workplace to reshape the attitude to personal well-being is something that all visionary businesses should be aiming for. As you have already read, many businesses are way ahead of others in terms of their efforts to ensure their workplace environment is set up to not only accommodate but nurture all the emotional journeys their employees face.  

While it would be unfair and impractical to suggest that a business can wholly anticipate what troubles their employees may be going through at any particular point in their lives; it is reasonable to expect that some thoughtful measures are put in place, acknowledging that people do encounter challenges and potentially may need some help to get to a better emotional state and become more resilient in the future.  

The benefits of introducing an innovative programme at a place of work that employees can easily access, should they find themselves in the position, is clear. 

Introducing and integrating our communication initiatives aimed at assisting employees with navigating the everyday, is something that we as a business are incredibly committed to, so that our employees may thrive.  

R.E.A.C.H (Real Ears and Caring Hearts) is a group that has been established by men to support other men in our workplace, no matter the situation, who are struggling with the day-to-day. We see that they may benefit from having someone to listen and support them and direct them to resources where they can find professional help should they need it.  

In the first twelve months of operation, it became clear that although this was a group intending to target male colleagues of Control Techniques, the female demographic also needed and sought out help and advice. Looking at the statistics of employees reaching out to the group, 90% have been men, with the remaining being 10% women. Although it may appear women have lesser need for emotional support in the workplace, you could put this lower figure down to a few factors. The main point being that women are generally more inherently open to talk about their issues with friends than male employees are. The high statistic is particularly noteworthy when only 36% of the people who reach out to the NHS identify as male. With that in mind, although this group is and will stay an advocacy group for men, female colleagues are welcomed to get in touch and receive the support they need.  

Our dedication to crafting an environment where our male workforce feels empowered to share their problems and take the first steps to a healthier mental state is a victory and a significant milestone for us as a company, and the group set up for the purpose of supporting our male colleagues. 

To date, this compassionate group of volunteers has successfully bolstered the well-being of between 40-50 employees. Given the persistent pressures people are facing in the world today, ranging from the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, family issues, relationship and financial struggles; this group of men embrace the responsibility to support their colleagues and stand ready to be there for anybody who may be facing adversity.  

It is important to remember that in any business, there are limitations regarding the support it can offer an individual in this area. The sign-posting strategy of the employer becomes a paramount factor to consider, we after all are not medical professionals qualified to diagnose or heal anybody. The group report that they have referred 8 members of staff to well-informed mental health organisations who can fully support them on their road to recovery. We believe that our R.E.A.C.H. group played a crucial role, encouraging these individuals to summon the strength to continue their personal mission in bettering their mental well-being.  

We see that discussing emotions and day-to-day struggles may present different levels of challenge for different staff members. In light of this, we have a steady stream of info-packed leaflets and posters around our factories and offices so that help is easily accessible for those who would prefer more discreet assistance. Mental health first-aiders operate on our site offering another avenue for people to reach out should they need to. 

We offer many benefits to our employees and extend this to those in their household too. Our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), an independently run service, offers anonymous support to every employee. They are on hand to help and give advice on dealing with mental, physical, and financial struggles. 

With 70% of adults experiencing some form of emotional or financial stress in 2023, companies must start to look at ways of helping their staff to deal with what are very real issues. If we want to keep our workforces operating to their fullest potential, be more productive, have reduced sickness absence, and ensure better staff retention; we need to act now. 

As you have read in this blog, many businesses are already doing what they can to put in place measures to ensure their valuable employees get the support they need when they need it. Reinforcing the notion that they can come to their place of work safe in the knowledge that their employer understands their needs and is willing to support them. 

If anyone reading this blog is affected in anyway by the issues talked about and feels like they would like to talk to someone, there are many helplines that can be accessed where you can get the support you need. 

Above all, we support and value a charity called ‘Mind’. We highly encourage our employees to access their website and get in touch whenever they feel lost or alone. If you would like to visit their website, click here. Or to contact them through e-mail, reach out to, or call them on 0208 215 2243. 

Alternatively, here are some helplines if you or a loved one is struggling with their mental health: 

  • Samaritans: 116 213 
  • SANEline: 0300 304 7000 
  • National Suicide Prevention Helpline UK: 0800 689 5652   
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