Increasing mental ill health prompting surge in wellbeing investment

The growing number of Britons out of work because of mental health conditions has prompted a surge in companies promoting wellness and wellbeing perks to new recruits, research has suggested.

Over the past 12 months, job adverts referring to wellness subsidies, budgets or discounts rose 310%, while those mentioning employee counselling services doubled (up 95%), according to the research by social media recruitment platform Socially Recruited.

Many of the companies offering wellbeing bonuses were in the hospitality sector, including US restaurant chain Chipotle, which provides an online wellness hub that includes counselling services for employees and their dependents.

Department store Harvey Nichols and food company 2 Sisters were among other businesses that advertised counselling services to staff, said the website.

Job adverts referring to a four-day week were also up 137%, as employers seek to attract candidates seeking better work-life balance, it highlighted.

Long-term sickness, in particular mental health conditions, has been the biggest contributor to the rise in UK’s economic inactivity, with almost nine million adults neither working nor seeking work, including an exodus of over-50s from the workplace.

The research has been published ahead of next week’s Mental Health Awareness Week, run by the Mental Health Foundation and which this year runs from 15 to 21 May.

It also chimes with various studies suggesting demand for, and investment in, counselling services such as employee assistance programmes is soaring.

Ben Keighley, founder of Socially Recruited, said: “For many Brits, how they perform and are treated at work plays a substantial role in their mental wellbeing. It is vital that provision is in place, not only to support those already in employment, but also to attract the new workers and returnees needed to drive the economy forward.

“Delivering corporate wellness and mental health benefits is a positive move that will not only help individual workers but have a collective impact and likely pay dividends by engendering greater productivity and loyalty.

“It is important however, that these services become normalised within businesses and form part of a wider company approach to address mental health openly and without prejudice.

“Companies that practise ‘wellbeing washing’ – delivering counselling with one hand but unreasonable expectations with the other – must adjust their approach or else risk being left behind by employees increasingly willing to vote with their feet,” Keighley added.

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