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Mental health tops the list of biggest business challenges for 2022


  • Mental health is the biggest HR challenge this year for UK businesses. 41% of employers said it was their top concern over retaining key staff (36%), recruitment (36%), Covid-related absence (31%), skills gap (29%) and Hybrid working (26%).
  • 79% of companies have reviewed their benefits offering since the start of the pandemic and almost half (49%) adapted their offer
  • Verbatim responses suggest increased health and medical insurance options and more wellness days / mental health days accounted for the majority of changes made to benefit packages alongside greater flexibility and an overall increase in the range of benefits offered

As we improve our understanding of what embodies the modern-day workplace, mental health continues to be a crucial factor for all employers to greatly consider. Entering Mental Health Awareness Week, this piece of research by Barnett Waddingham contributes to such an understanding, observing the irrevocable impact of the pandemic on both the individual and business.

Conducted in March 2022 as businesses returned to the office after the removal of covid restrictions, our research shows more than two in five companies (41%) consider mental health to be the biggest HR challenge currently facing their business. This outranks concerns regarding recruitment (36%), Covid-related absence (31%), bridging the skills gap (29%) and setting up and operating a hybrid working model 26%.

In order to tackle this problem, businesses are rethinking their employee benefits packages. 79% of companies have reviewed their benefits offering since the start of the pandemic and almost half (49%) have made changes as a result. Here decision-makers claim increased health and private medical insurance options and more wellbeing days / mental health days accounted for the majority of changes made to the benefits package.

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Beyond this, as businesses adapt to a hybrid working model, employers are choosing to retain practices that reduced stress and employee burnout during lockdown. More than two out of five (43%) companies are likely to retain flexible hours/core hours system, with 35% also looking to keep designated slots in the day free from virtual meetings. Naturally, hybrid working creates its own challenges too with particular care needed to ensure teams feel connected whether they are on site or working remotely and line managers are confident they can train, motivate, and identify any mental health concerns.

David Collington, Principal at Barnett Waddingham, comments: “Although we are no longer obliged to work from home, it will take time to reverse the impact of isolation and loneliness that has built up over the lockdown. So, it’s encouraging that businesses are placing employees’ wellbeing front and centre of their hybrid working strategy; increasing overall benefits spend and pivoting the package to concentrate on health and wellbeing. 

“Employers’ willingness to retain features like zoom free Fridays and flexible office hours, which were shown to actively reduce stress and burn out during the lockdown, can be seen as the foundation of a new way of working. However, there is still a way to go to truly embrace the new world and enhance recruitment and retention. By listening to their people, employers can create a bespoke benefits offering which is adapted to the needs of its employees. An offering dedicated to supporting employee wellbeing will be mutually benefiting.”

“The hybrid world is still evolving, creating its own range of challenges and opportunities along the way, and I suspect the most effective approaches will be cocreated by employers working closely with their teams.


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