A new study by wellbeing and performance experts GoodShape has estimated that poor mental health cost UK businesses £17 billion during the pandemic, with employees taking 125 million days off work.

GoodShape’s UK Mental Health & Wellbeing Alert revealed an 8% increase in working days lost due to poor mental health during the pandemic, compared with the two years before. During the pandemic, 125million working days were lost to mental-health related absence, as opposed to 116million pre-pandemic. GoodShape data also indicates that 54% of workers who take two or more mental health-related absences will go on to leave their jobs.

However, it’s interesting to note that even before the pandemic, poor mental health was the top reason for lost working time across the UK. The last two years have accelerated the growth of the problem, but it was certainly an issue which already existed pre-pandemic. With this in mind, poor mental health – and the impact this has on absences and cost to companies – should be a primary concern for employers and HR teams.

How can HR teams help to reduce mental-health related absences?

Unfortunately, despite the world now edging slightly back to ‘normality’, the effects of the pandemic are still being felt, especially in terms of the current economic climate. We’re still living in a time of uncertainty and hardship, and employers should be considering how they can offer support to staff, not only as a moral obligation, but for the good of their company too.

When it comes to poor mental health and the impact it can have on companies, prevention is better than cure. By providing the correct support for employees and appropriate training for HR teams, companies can reduce mental health disorders amongst staff, and in turn, the impact it can have on the business as a whole.

Many businesses are taking this opportunity to review their internal mental health and wellness initiatives, with companies offering employees benefits such as access to mental health care services, such as therapy, counselling, and coaching.

Employers should empower HR teams to support day to day on important aspects of mental health and wellbeing. Offering training to HR teams can ensure they acquire the necessary skills to deal with issues around mental health and stress effectively, providing a supportive work environment, and offering advice to anyone experiencing a mental health problem or returning to work after a period of absence due to mental health problems.

How can HR software help?

Monitoring absences

An early indicator that someone is struggling with their mental health is that their attendance at work may slip. Noticing regular absences can help to identify the problem early on, and offer the correct support where needed.

If HR teams notice a pattern of frequent absences, they are able to open up discussions with the employees affected in order to find out the reasons behind their absences and put measures in place to support them. Identifying these patterns easily allows HR teams to ask “is everything ok?” before the problem worsens. HR software can be an excellent tool to help manage absences, as it can help HR teams to identify patterns and spot potential problems early on.

Encourage breaks

Burnout and poor mental health go hand in hand. If employees are too busy to take a break they are at risk of burnout, which increases the possibility that they will need to take time off. HR teams need to encourage employees to rest: by enjoying some downtime and recharging their batteries, employees can approach work with far more motivation and productivity.

HR teams may find that using time tracking software can help. This type of HR software allows staff to “clock in and out of work”, even if they’re working remotely. By using this software, HR teams can easily identify patterns where members of staff are working a much longer day than they should be, and this makes it easier to intervene and offer support.

HR departments should also encourage employees to log their breaks to ensure they are taking sufficient time to rest and eat during the day: studies have proven that taking lunch breaks helps to reduce the risk of burnout, so ensuring that employees take a sufficient break for lunch is important.

Ensure staff take their holidays

Employers and HR teams should be actively encouraging their employees to use their annual leave allowance. A survey by Glassdoor found that two in five workers take just half their annual leave entitlement and, on average, employees take just 62% of their allowance.

Organising staff holidays can be a challenge for HR departments, but HR software can make the process much smoother. HR software makes it easy for staff to request time-off, or amend their holiday dates if necessary. When it comes to combating poor mental health, it’s vital to make sure employees are taking the time to recharge properly, and HR teams must do all they can to encourage staff to use their annual leave.

How Phase 3 can help reduce mental-health related absences

As well as impacting your employees, poor mental health can affect all areas of your business. By supporting employees effectively and empowering HR teams to do more, you can reduce absences related to poor mental health, and the associated costs to your business.

If you need help managing absences, or advice on improving mental health and wellness policies, Phase 3 can help. We’re HR specialists and can advise HR teams on everything from HR technology, processes, and building a positive workplace culture. If you feel like you’d benefit from a chat with us you can contact us here.