Social Innovation Trend Canvas

Improving productivity with psychological health

Companies are starting to have annual check-ups and corporate “wellness programmes” extended to cover the psychological well-being of employees. Programmes on weight loss, smoking cessation, and healthy eating are abound, with in-house psychologists, gyms, and nutrition-focused cafeterias.

For instance, IBM offers workers financial incentives (such as cheaper medical co-payments) to encourage them to lose weight and exercise regularly. AstraZeneca has installed treadmills in its offices so workers can exercise their legs, albeit gently, while holding meetings. PricewaterhouseCoopers provides massage and yoga sessions. BT, Rolls-Royce and Grant Thornton have recently introduced mental-health programmes, ranging from psychological first aid before problems escalate, to rehabilitating those suffering breakdowns.

Long hours and tight deadlines already make stress a defining characteristic of work in many firms. This is frequently exacerbated by discrimination or workplace bullying. It has been established that there is a direct link between prolonged stress levels and weakened immune systems. The Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health estimates that a sixth of the British workforce suffers from depression or stress, and that mental ill-health costs British employers almost $26 billion a year. American research suggests that “presenteeism” (whereby the walking wounded turn up to work without contributing) costs twice as much as absenteeism.

How does your company’s human productivity strategy account for the employees’ psychological well-being?