Home News Board-level action on employee well-being and mental health “inadequate” finds ICSA poll

Board-level action on employee well-being and mental health “inadequate” finds ICSA poll

by Brian Sims

Fewer than half of those organisations polled by ICSA: The Governance Institute and governance recruitment specialist The Core Partnership have considered employee well-being and mental health at Board level. Just 45% of Boards have considered these issues, 34% haven’t done so at all and the remaining 21% of respondents were unsure if their Board had or not. Furthermore, when questioned as to whether or not their organisation does enough to support employees’ mental well-being, fewer than half (49%) of the respondents said ‘Yes’ and just under a third (31%) said ‘No’.

Those respondents who feel that their organisations do enough to support employee well-being gave a number of examples. One respondent said: ‘There is currently a well-being awareness drive in the company and the new office refurbishment has been done with employee well-being, breakout spaces, quiet areas and social areas, etc in mind.’ Another stated: ‘We have a proactive approach to mental health and well-being, and particularly so stress at work.’ Further, another respondent explained: ‘We have mental health First Aiders as well as medical support Helplines and services available to employees. There’s also line manager training on this issue and the business encourages employees to publicly talk about their experiences.’

Of those Boards that are engaged with employee well-being and mental health, at least one Board has discussed the impact that increased pressure and change at work has on mental well-being and has begun discussing what more could be done to alleviate this matter in a sustained way. Another ‘is involved and understanding the issues affecting employees and how this can have a negative effect on business.’

Overall, the majority of respondents feel that their organisations could do more, with one stating: ‘As someone who has experienced mental health issues in the past, I’m not sure that the provision organisations do make is either as appropriate or as accessible as they think it is.’ Another went further and said: ‘Organisations put a lot pressure on employees in order to achieve their bosses’ bonus objectives. Much stress emanates from this. Organisations should truly commit to stopping senior executives pouring daily pressure on members of staff.’

Some respondents raised specific issues, including the following:

Working practices: ‘The right noises are made, including championing at ExCo level, but the structures in place and the aggressive drive to achieve more with fewer resources (under the guise of “smarter ways of working”) do not support employees’ wellness in practice.’

Resources: ‘We did start to support the Time to Change movement, but then resources became tighter and no-one had the time or resource to continue the work. It didn’t have buy in at a senior level, so sadly everything lapsed.’

Culture: ‘As a company with a devolved structure, we do not offer the level of support and care I have witnessed in other businesses. With a rather ‘macho’ culture, any sign of illness, physical or mental, is considered to be weak.’

Workload: ‘We have undergone a number of restructurings with no obvious support offered to those affected either directly or indirectly (ie due to increased or changed workload).’

Management buy-in: ‘There are various initiatives underway, but whether or not these are taken seriously by senior management remains to be seen.’

Peter Swabey

Peter Swabey

Peter Swabey, policy and research director at ICSA: The Governance Institute, observed: “It’s clear from the results of our poll that the majority of support for workforce mental health is coming from external sources. Some 45% of respondents stated that they have an Employee Assistance Programme where they work, but only 2% have a mental health champion. Lack of training of line managers is also a concern.”

Swabey added: “The support of mental well-being needs to be approached as a long-term and integral part of overall employee well-being. Rather than treating individual mental health issues reactively, a much more holistic approach needs to be implemented. Training managers need to spot the signs and promote a culture whereby people can talk openly about their mental health without being judged. Reporting must be encouraged. This can support discussions at Board level which would make a big difference.”

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