Mental Health at Work – the Business Case

Business Insights

Stress and poor mental health costs your business in the region of £1,300 per employee, every year. However, simple health and well-being interventions can minimise this cost, generating up to a 9-fold return on investment.

Interested? Then read on...

There has never been greater awareness of the negative commercial impact of stress and poor mental health at work. There is also an increasing awareness of the effects of these issues on the lives of employees, their families, friends and colleagues.

A raft of research and reports from internationally recognised organisations have consistently demonstrated the scale of the problem, and its impact on the bottom line. However, the evidence suggests that many organisations could do more to support their staff, with simple solutions that lead to a significant return on investment.

The scale of the problem

Some statistics for you…

  • One in four people in the UK will have a mental health problem at some point in their lives3

  • 37% of those aged 18-29 have been formally diagnosed with a mental health condition4

  • Around 15% of people at work have symptoms of an existing mental health condition6

  • Stress and mental ill health are the leading cause of long term absence1

  • Over a third of workers have considered leaving their job due to stress2

What‘s the cost of the problem?

Stress and poor mental health costs UK businesses between £33 billion and £42 billion a year through reduced productivity, high turnover and sickness absence.

This is equivalent to £1,205-£1,560 for every employee in the UK workforce6

These costs are corroborated by the Centre for Mental Health, who calculate a figure of £1,300 per employee. The costs vary between sectors but are clearly significant regardless.

For clarity, these costs are not per employee with poor mental health, they are per employee. For example, if you have 1,000 employees, the cost of poor mental health in your organisation could be in the order of £1.2-1.5M per year.

Approximately half of this cost is from ‘presenteeism’ (when individuals are less productive due to poor mental health in work) with the remaining costs from sickness absence and staff turnover6.

The benefits of investing in mental health

There are clear commercial benefits to investing in the health and well-being of employees. Specifically, Deloitte found significant good quality evidence that the return on investment of workplace mental health interventions is overwhelmingly positive. They found that…

The average return per £1 spent was £4.20, with an upper limit of £9 6

The CIPD also report clear benefits of investing in health and well-being, including better employee morale and engagement, a healthier and more inclusive culture, lower sickness absence and improved productivity1.


These benefits are easy to realise by following simple, evidence based advice.

The HSE detail their management standards for stress, and the Stevenson/Farmer review sets out clear core and enhanced standards for managing the risks associated with mental health.

If organisations follow this advice, they’ll reap the benefits of a more present, engaged and productive workforce, with lower staff absence and turnover.

However, the reports that have been mentioned throughout this article all recognise one key link – line managers.

Indeed, just under half of line managers are bought in to the importance of well-being1 and a lack of high-quality mental health training for line managers continues to be a pivotal issue4.

Organisations where line managers are bought in to the importance of well-being see improvements in morale, engagement, absence and productivity1.

The views of employees gained from recent surveys are also interesting:

  • Only 36% of UK workers say that their workplace supports mental wellbeing2

  • Only 40% of workers reported that they would trust their manager with a mental health concern2

  • Only 16% of employees report that they feel able to disclose a mental health issue to their manager4

Managers don’t need to be health experts, but they do need to recognise the value of health and well-being at work, be able to spot early warning signs of ill health, have the competence and confidence to have sensitive conversations, direct employees to appropriate sources of help and actively promote good attendance and well-being. This can be a daunting prospect for a line manager who is not adequately equipped to deal with these issues1.

Fortunately, there’s a simple and effective solution, succinctly put by Investors in People as their top recommendation for employers…

Train your line managers in how to support their team’s mental health2

To be most effective however, the training needs to be tailored to the specific needs of your organisation and people. A bog standard course will have some effect, but a bespoke course will maximise the return on investment.

At Custom Training, we partner with organisations to help them achieve their commercial goals. We work with you to understand your goals, as well as your health and well-being environment, so that we can design learning interventions that will have maximum impact.

Expert staff then deliver interactive, contextualised training that efficiently gives line managers the competence and confidence to change the way they manage their staff.

Feedback from our learners demonstrates that staff need and appreciate these interventions:

"The course is great, everyone should participate"

"It was all really good - just what was needed"

"Really enjoyable course, learnt loads"

"I really enjoyed the course and found it extremely useful"


In summary, employee stress and poor mental health continue to be a considerable cost for organisations.

Simple interventions, such as bespoke line manager training, can lead to reduced staff absence, as well as increased performance, engagement and retention. This constitutes a significant financial return on investment, whilst also improving the lives of your employees and their families.

Click this link to find out more about our Mental Health at Work courses, or get in touch with Tim ( if you'd like to discuss training for your organisation.


1. Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), Health and Well-being at Work, 2018

2. Investors in People (IIP), Managing Mental Health in the Workplace, 2018

3. Health and Safety Executive website, Mental Health at Work, 2019

4. Business in the Community (BITC), Mental Health at Work 2018 Report, 2018

5. World Health Organisation website, Mental Health/Depression, 2019

6. Stevenson/Farmer (UK Government), Thriving at Work, 2017