More than ever, employees are looking to their organisations for the leadership, support and advice they need to meet today’s challenges – and the ones that are undoubtedly around the corner, says Harry Bliss.

There is so much that the employer community can do to support the health and wellbeing of their people, but it can be difficult to know where to start. 

For years, Champion Health has leveraged data to identify current trends in employee wellbeing. This information has been used by HR departments at global organisations to effectively address the most pressing challenges affecting their workforce. 

This January, my team released new findings from a study of over 4,000 employees from diverse backgrounds and industries, providing a comprehensive view of the current state of wellbeing in the workplace. 

This should grab the attention of anyone who works in HR. 

In this article, you will discover the findings that resonated deeply with my experience as a people manager and leader, as well as practical steps you can take right now to improve the wellbeing of your people. 

Finances are the top cause of stress outside work 

Employees report that finances are the most common cause of stress outside work, with 37 percent of employees experiencing financial stress. Tellingly, that is a percentage increase of 23 percernt compared to last year.

The cost-of-living crisis is clearly taking its toll on our people, so leaders must take steps to support those employees.  

To this end, I’m calling on employers to provide financial wellbeing coaching, either internally or through partnering with external wellbeing providers. 

And for those employers who may not possess the resources to provide financial coaching to your people, you can still signpost towards free external resources like the UK government’s Money and Pension’s Service.  

Incidences of suicidal thoughts are rising 

Our latest data also reveals a distressing rise in the number of employees experiencing thoughts of suicide or self-harm. Our findings indicate that this percentage has risen from 8% to 9% in the last year. 

This means that, in an average organisation of 1,000 employees, there are 90 individuals experiencing thoughts of suicide. 

Put another way, 10 more people in that organisation are now experiencing suicidal thoughts versus last year. This is a tragic increase that could have a devastating impact. 

There is a role for all of us to play in preventing suicide and there are many practical actions HR leaders can take that could prove lifesaving. 

For example, leaders must take action to break down the stigma surrounding mental health. The best way to do this is to develop and foster a psychologically safe working environment in which employees feel able to open up and discuss mental health. 

Create this environment by: 

  • Ensuring your people managers check in with employees during 1:1s and staff appraisals 
  • Encouraging leaders to share experiences of struggles they’ve had and what helped them during those times 
  • Raising awareness of the mental health services your organisation offers, and the pathways for employees to access them 

 Your people are motivated despite the challenges 

Our report shows that the vast majority (98%) of employees are motivated to make health changes. This shows your people are ready and eager to improve their wellbeing – even if they’re not always vocal about it in the workplace. 

Unfortunately, these professionals are lacking the means to make those changes happen. Within our sample, energy levels, activity, weight, sleep and stress all featured prominently as areas that employees want to improve in. 

We also found that 43 percent of employees cite time as a barrier to engaging with wellbeing. Given this finding, leaders must create flexible and accommodating wellbeing initiatives that do not add to already heavy workloads.  

Turning insight into action 

When the team and I at Champion Health first analysed the data, it reaffirmed what we’ve observed from working on the ground with global organisations. 

Employees are reacting and adapting to ever-changing challenges and that is taking its toll – not least on their mental health. 

However, I want to encourage leaders that it is not all doom and gloom. 

Leaders and their people can work together to improve wellbeing – leading to healthier, happier lives and higher performance at work and beyond. 

With 98 percent of employees motivated to make positive health changes, organisations like yours are primed and ready to reap the rewards that come with happier, healthier people.