Workplace Mental Health
How common are mental health problems in UK workplaces?
Mental health problems affect 1 in 6 British workers each year 1 and there is growing evidence to
show that this number is increasing. Research conducted through the Labour Force Survey has
shown that the prevalence of self reported work related mental health problems, such as stress,
depression and anxiety, remained relatively stable until fairly recently (2014/15), when it started to
show signs of increasing. 2
It is projected that as a percentage of the total number of instances of poor health at work, mental
health problems will soon surpass other work-related illnesses such as musculoskeletal disorders,
respiratory diseases, cancer, skin issues, and hearing damage. 3
Survey data from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) indicates
a significant increase in the number of reported instances of mental ill health over the past year in
both large (250 + employees) and small (<250 employees) organisations. 4
Why is good Mental Health at work important?
The costs to employers of poor mental health in the workplace are substantial. Using conservative
assumptions, Deloitte has estimated a total annual cost to businesses of up to £45bn. There are also
other indirect costs to employers of poor mental health, such as the adverse impact on creativity,
innovation, and other employees. 5 This translates to an annual cost per employee ranging from
£497-£2564 depending on the industry/sector. 6
Do individuals think their employers do enough to support their mental health?
Despite the general public becoming more aware of mental health issues, the experience of many
employees is that they still don’t feel able to talk about their mental health at work. A recent
Business in the Community 2019 Mental Health at Work report found that less than half of
employees felt comfortable talking to their line manager about their mental health and more than
a third of employees surveyed said that work had affected their mental health over the past
12 months. 7
A comparison of organisations of different sizes shows little difference between small, medium and
large employers, with only around 30% of those surveyed agreeing with the statement: ‘My
employer has contributed to my MH literacy to help me build my skills to effectively support
a colleague who is experiencing poor mental health at work.’ There appears to be more that
employers could do to equip employees better. 5
What can organisations do to support the mental health of their employees?
Deloitte found that there is more that employers can be doing to support mental health among the
workforce. In particular, more can be done to tackle the stigma associated with mental health
problems, increase awareness, and provide adequate training for employees. SMEs are a lower
visibility but higher risk category where employees may benefit from greater, formalised support. 5
The CIPD Health and Wellbeing at work survey found that only 38% of companies are currently
providing training for managers in supporting staff with mental health problems. 4 However, the most
recent Business in the Community (BITC) Mental Health at Work report found that only 9% of all
employees surveyed (and 13% of all managers surveyed) have attended training that focused
solely on mental health. 7
Deloitte’s research shows that proactive support for staff through mental health training provides
a high return on investment and is also an effective way of showing commitment to a mental
health agenda, while driving organisational change. 5
What benefit will this investment provide to my organisation?
ROI analysis by Deloitte shows a financial case in favour of employers investing in mental health.
This analysis found that on average employers obtain a return of £5 for every £1 (5.2:1) invested. 5
From their previous research in 2017, Deloitte found that the return on investment of workplace
mental health interventions is largely positive. 6 Based on a systematic review of the available
literature, they found in 2017 that ROIs ranged from £0.40 per £1 invested (0.4:1) to £9 per £1
invested (9:1), with an average ROI of 4.2:1. 6 Their updated research, which includes new studies,
found that the ROI can range up to 10.8:1, with an average ROI of 5.2:1. 5
Deloitte reports that employers aware of the importance of mental health and emotional wellbeing
have an organisational culture of openness, acceptance and awareness, including mandatory
training on wellbeing. As a result, more individuals will understand the link between their mental
health and productivity and what to do when they or their colleagues experience challenging
circumstances. Research shows that the ROI of early stage supporting activities can range up to 8:1. 6
How can this support be delivered?
The evidence from Deloitte shows that interventions that achieve higher returns tend to have the
• They offer a large scale culture change, or organisation wide initiatives supporting large
numbers of employees.
• They are focused on prevention or designed to build employee resilience.
• They use technology or diagnostics to tailor support for those most at risk. 5
The Deloitte report suggests that employers could provide training for employees to spot and act
on signs of poor mental health in themselves and others. This is designed to support the employee
to improve their mental health and thrive again. If the employee cannot find support within or
outside the workplace their mental health may worsen. Research shows that the ROI of proactive
interventions can range up to 6:1. 5
Deloitte’s analysis of the stage of the intervention found that on average, organisation wide culture
change and awareness raising can provide a ROI of £6 for every £1 invested. Proactive training
provides a similarly high average ROI of £5 for every £1 invested. Reactive support, such as offering
employees therapy or treatment once their mental health had worsened, although an important
part of the suite of interventions an employer should offer, provided on average a return of only £3
for every £1 invested. This indicates that organisation wide, preventative activities to improve
employee resilience can achieve a higher impact than reactive, individual focused activities. 5
Evaluating the types of interventions that employers should offer, Deloitte found that one of the
strategies yielding the biggest return for businesses was to provide training, both universally and
to small groups. For example the highest ROI in their sample was 10.8:1 for a training–based
A comparison of ROIs across different scales of intervention shows that the maximum ROI is similar
for individual, group and universal support, with a greater ROI the less targeted the intervention. 5
It seems clear that the most effective programmes are those that are embedded in the
organisation over the long term and offer a broad spectrum of interventions.
In summary, Deloitte found that the following factors have had a positive impact on the ROI of
mental health interventions:
• focusing on organisation wide activities, providing training universally or to targeted groups
• using technology to reduce cost and increase the likelihood of uptake by limiting the associated
• using diagnostics and screening to help target interventions based on need. 5
Are there any frameworks available to help my business to develop a strategy for promoting good mental health?
We work with our partners to provide clear processes and frameworks to support your mental health strategy.
• Use insights to take stock, monitor and analyse performance at the organisation
• Tackle stigma and improve awareness
• Provide more support through training
• Understand the drivers of presenteeism and leaveism in the organisation and take action
to reduce them
• Consider whether increasing financial literacy and providing financial support is
appropriate for the organisation
1. Chartered Institute of Professional Development (CIPD) in partnership with SimplyHealth
(2012) Absence Management Annual Survey Report. CIPD
2. Work-related stress, anxiety or depression statistics in Great Britain, HSE, 2019.
3. The occupational disease burden, HSE, Accessed in 2019.
4. CIPD, Health and Wellbeing at work Annual Survey, April 2019
5. Deloitte: Mental health and employers – Refreshing the case for investment. Deloitte
6. Deloitte: Mental health and employers: the case for investment. Supporting study for the
Independent Review. Oct 2017