How to create an employee mental health and wellbeing strategy

Learn why it is important to create an employee mental health and wellbeing strategy to support workers and how our guide to developing an effective mental wellbeing strategy can help.

If you manage a team of employees, it's important to have a workplace mental wellbeing strategy in place. A comprehensive mental wellbeing programme can help reduce stress and anxiety levels for employees, line managers and senior managers. Beyond this, a good employee wellbeing strategy meets your employees' needs so that they can perform at their peak level and remain productive.

If you are currently writing or thinking of writing an employee mental health and wellbeing strategy, we can help.

What is a wellbeing strategy?

Employee wellbeing is a term that refers to the overall health and wellbeing of employees, including their physical, mental, and emotional health. In recent years, employee wellbeing has gained increasing recognition in the workplace. Employee wellbeing extends beyond physical health and encompasses many other areas, such as emotional wellbeing, financial stability and even workplace satisfaction.

As such, a wellbeing strategy is a detailed plan designed to promote health and happiness within a business. It considers the needs of employees, as well as the challenges and goals of the business. The benefits of such a strategy include less absenteeism and presenteeism, greater productivity, improved morale, and higher job satisfaction.

Why is employee wellbeing important?

There are many business reasons why employee wellbeing should be taken seriously. These include:

1. Boosting engagement and morale

Many UK workers struggle to feel engaged by their employment. Indeed, global workplace research from Gallup found that the UK is among the worst countries in Europe for employee engagement (33rd out of a list of 38), with only 9% of our UK workforce feeling engaged. When employees feel supported and valued in their workplace, they are likelier to be satisfied with their job and have a positive attitude towards their work.

2. Increasing productivity

Employees who are healthy and happy are more likely to be satisfied and productive in their work. In fact, Studies have proven that happy employees are 13% more productive. When employees are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or unwell, their productivity can suffer. By promoting employee wellbeing, businesses can help ensure that their employees can perform at their best.

3. Reducing absenteeism

Employees struggling with their mental health may be more likely to take time off work, resulting in increased absenteeism. The UK Government found that mental health was one of the top four reasons for sickness absence in the UK. By promoting employee wellbeing and focusing on improving employees’ mental health, businesses can take real action to reduce absenteeism.

Our wellbeing strategy guide explains how to calculate how much absenteeism is costing your organisation.

4. Reducing presenteeism

Presenteeism, when employees come to work without being motivated or productive, is a growing problem for UK employers. Research from Vitality finds that nearly half (45%) of UK workers admit to suffering from presenteeism.

By promoting employee wellbeing and focusing on employee happiness and engagement, businesses can help reduce presenteeism and ensure that employees want to perform at their best.

Our guide gives instructions on out how to calculate the cost of presenteeism.

5. Improving employee retention

Employee turnover and retention have reached a crisis point in the UK, with recent CIPD research revealing that 6.5 million people plan on leaving their jobs across 2022 and 2023. When employees feel supported and valued in their workplace, they are more likely to stay with their employer for longer. This can help businesses save on the costs associated with hiring and training new employees.

6. Meeting legal obligations

In many countries, including the UK, employers have a legal obligation to protect their employees' health and safety, including their mental health. By promoting employee wellbeing, businesses can ensure they meet their legal obligations. Check out our guide for example cases of legal pay-outs resulting from employees suffering from poor mental health.

Why do we need a workplace mental health and wellbeing strategy?

According to a report on UK mental health strategies, 97% of professionals believe employers have a responsibility to support their staff's mental health and wellbeing and 88% of professionals consider the mental health policies of potential employers when looking for new roles. By implementing a workplace strategy, you will show your commitment to better mental wellbeing for your employees.

More importantly, according to NHS data, 1 in 6 people will experience some form of mental health problem in any given year so it is inevitable that, at some point in your working life, you will be employing someone suffering from a mental health problem. Yet, research suggests that only 38% of UK employers have a mental health policy, and the CIPD found that only 50% of businesses have a formal strategy for improving employee wellbeing. More shockingly, 78% of managers admit they would struggle to spot the signs of poor employee mental health. Without a clear strategy for improving mental health, employers risk the wellbeing of their staff.

The wellbeing strategy guide's purpose is to improve awareness of mental health within your organisation, helping your business create an actionable plan for improving your employees’ mental health. The guide provides the flexibility to tailor a strategy to your business’ exact needs and objectives.

Do wellbeing strategies really make a difference?

Yes! Many studies have proven that wellbeing strategies can lead to improved employee health and happiness, which helps the business run more efficiently. Vitality found that 75% of businesses who have health and wellbeing programmes see a positive impact on their overall health.

Furthermore, detailed research from the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP) found that employee incentives such as employee assistance programmes (EAP), stress reduction workshops, mindfulness training and on-site yoga, improved organisational culture, leading to enhanced morale, desire to work and improved employee relations. CUSP’s comprehensive report describes how Transport for London (TfL) reduced absenteeism due to stress, anxiety, and depression by 71% over three years through its employee wellbeing programme. 80% of TfL's employees reported improvements in their relationships, 64% in sleep patterns, and 53% in happiness when at work.

The results are conclusive! Employee wellbeing strategies can make a massive difference in employee satisfaction and productivity rates within the business.

What are the key steps to developing an employee wellbeing strategy?

There are five key stages to developing your strategy:

  1. Developing a business case for focusing on mental health at work
  2. Gathering and analysing data
  3. Writing your strategy
  4. Launching and implementing your strategy
  5. Evaluating your strategy - so that you can properly assess the effectiveness of what you are doing

Our strategy guide explains each stage and contains detailed recommendations on how to implement them including:

  • Communication and engagement
  • Learning and development
  • Policies and processes
  • Wellbeing initiatives
  • Measurement and impact
  • And more!

The guide contains an introduction from Rt Hon. Sir Norman Lamb, a passionate advocate and expert on improving mental health and wellbeing in the UK.

Get started on your Workplace Mental Wellbeing Strategy

All in all, by putting together a strategy and taking meaningful steps to ensure the wellbeing of your staff, you not only create happier working conditions but also benefit from long-term improvements in overall morale and performance.

Download our PDF Guide to producing an Effective Workplace Mental Wellbeing Strategy.

If you enjoyed this article, you might also like our blog on how to support employee wellbeing with our mental health audit tool.


Katie Buckingham

Katie founded Altruist Enterprises in 2013. Since then, she has grown Altruist into a nationwide provider of mental health and resilience training. Katie is a seasoned public speaker and innovator of bespoke mental health courses. In 2022, Katie won the Cambridge Social Innovation Prize awarded by Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge and Cambridge Judge Business School.

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