Business Leaders from across the North West have vowed to help set a new standard for employee well-being, which will make the region’s economy more productive and its people healthier. An event organised by NWBLT members, Grant Thornton, drew together business leaders, HR directors and expert contributors from a range of organisations, all passionate about making a difference in this area.
Opening the discussion, Mike Herdman, a tax director at Grant Thornton, set the scene stating: “Ill health among working age people costs the economy approximately £100bn and sickness absence costs employers £9bn a year, so it’s absolutely vital that it’s an issue given the highest prominence.”
Herdman explained that Grant Thornton’s purpose is to shape a vibrant economy – based on trust, integrity and collaboration, and said the firm is keen to help businesses share best practice on workplace well-being, and in particular mental health awareness.
With increased media coverage of mental health issues, there was consensus among the attendees that businesses need to ‘mainstream’ the issue by creating a supportive environment for their staff to talk openly about any work and personal problems. There are some hurdles to overcome though. With mental health problems estimated by the Centre of Mental Health to have cost the UK economy almost £35bn in 2016, research has suggested that around 70% of mentally ill people actively conceal their condition, with most doing so because they feared discrimination.
The event was attending by NWBLT’s CEO – Emma Degg – who commented that she “believes the right kind of leadership is the way forward. The answer to this is leadership, authenticity and valuing people. There are some businesses in the region absolutely leading the way in employee well-being – Moneypenny is one. Their culture runs through that business like letters in a stick of rock.”
Sandy Lindsay, Chair and Founder of Tangerine PR and the Juice Academy (also NWBLT’s Skills Lead), said “I believe that stress at
work comes in part from a lack of empowerment, and helplessness, so listening to people’s views has to be the right thing to do.” She said that since Tangerine’s move to become an employee owned trust in July 2017, it had become an “incredibly energised place”.
The discussion then turned to the proposed plans for a Greater Manchester Employment Charter, and how the mental health and well-being
agenda must be included. Emma Degg said: “Perhaps this should be broader. Let’s all work towards creating a Good Business Charter in this region, and make it a place where employees and management work corroboration to create an open and supportive culture, which will produce better results for all.”