On 23rd May, the ERC team hosted a research showcase event at Warwick University to share insights from our ESRC-funded project Mental health and well-being practices, outcomes and productivity.

The event aimed to bring together researchers, policy makers and practitioners in workplace mental health and at the same time launch the findings from our latest large-scale survey of mental health attitudes and practices amongst Midlands-based firms carried out earlier in 2023.

After an opening session from ERC Director Stephen Roper, ERC Research Fellow Maria Wishart presented the headline findings from the employer survey, which is the latest in a series of four carried out pre and post pandemic in 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023.

The findings show that mental health and wellbeing is still very much a key issue for employers. The number of employees working while they are unwell and exceeding their contracted hours has risen dramatically in 2023, with 37 per cent of businesses reporting problems with ‘presenteeism’, a marked increase from 21 per cent in our 2022 survey, and exceeding pre-pandemic levels for the first time. More than a quarter of firms also said staff had missed work due to mental health-related sickness. The survey also finds more firms are reporting that mental health-related absence is having knock-on effects on their operations than pre-pandemic, with 58% stating that this was having detrimental effects on performance.

We were also joined at the event by some of the researchers from our partner organisations who make up the boarder project team. Juliet Hassard of Queens University Belfast outlined new research now underway on the links between workplace psycho-social climate and mental health and involving interviews with employees, and Louise Thomson of the Centre for Organizational Health and Development at Nottingham University shared insights on implementing mental health interventions, drawing on experiences with the MHPP Managing Minds initiative.

An engaging panel discussion followed on the theme of ‘where next for workplace mental health policy?’. Sean Russell of the MHPP chaired the session which involved Francoise Woolley of Acas, Nicola Moss of the DWP, Andrew Berrie from Mind, and Will Smith from the CMI.

A range of issues were raised during the panel session, including concerns about the demands placed on managers when managing employee mental health issues; the need for more sector/size tailored advice for firms as well as practical tools which managers can use; the challenges of changing senior leadership cultures to be more understanding about mental health issues; and the need for more convincing evidence on the practices that really work when it comes to improving workplace mental health and wellbeing. These are all themes that the project will continue to explore and develop over the next two years, so watch this space for further events, updates and publications.

Vicki Belt, Deputy Director, ERC

If you would like more information about the research or would like to be added to our project update mailing list, please contact Vicki.Belt@wbs.ac.uk