Mandatory wellbeing reporting could stimulate action to support employee mental health, but it could also encourage undesirable ‘box ticking’ beahviours, employee wellbeing experts have said.
A session at this week’s MAD World Summit in London explored whether employers should be required to report on the mental health of their workforces and their plans to improve employee wellbeing.
However, panellists agreed that it might not encourage behaviours that would result in healthier workplaces.
Simon Blake, CEO at Mental Health First Aid England, said: “I’m very torn on what reporting could drive. We know that reporting, when done very well, creates momentum, creates real purpose and focus. But we also know it can be a drive to the bottom.”
He said that implementing statutory reporting can often mean that employers simply report on a minimum common standard, rather than report data that is more pertinent to their orgnanisations.
He said that mental health concerns are often caused by factors that are unrelated to work, but still have an impact on an individual’s performance and wellbeing at work. It would be difficult to draw this distinction in any reporting framework, he claimed.
“The cost of living crisis, something that is happening outside of our working environment, is something that’s impacting in people’s happiness in work. How do we separate what’s happening in work from what’s happening in the wider world?” he said.
Arti Kashyap-Aynsley, global head of health and wellbeing at Ocado Group, said organisations could fall into the “box-ticking” trap if a statutory wellbeing reporting requirement was put in place.
“Statutory reporting could mean that it becomes very process-driven, and then progress around compassionate leaders and empathetic management goes away because organisations have to [report on data],” she said.
Josh Krichefski, global COO at EssenceMediaCom, said he would soon launch a campaign that will urge the government to require CEOs at organisations with 250 or more employees to sign a pledge to provide a minimum standard of care for mental health. This would include a commitment to conduct risk assessments, provide credible education and training at every level of the organisation, and offer preventative and remedial support.
He said statutory wellbeing reporting might encourage the “wrong sort of behaviours from leadership – leaders could start to use [their data] to compete with other employers”.
“I’m pushing for a CEO signature because it’s stronger than a pledge. A pledge has no accountability.”
He suggested that leaders might encourage staff to say positive things about their wellbeing if they knew their data would be publicly available, but said “what we really want is for leaders to be encouraging their people to be completely open and honest”.
Sarah Cunningham, managing director at the World Wellbeing Movement, said organisations first need to understand how to measure wellbeing, particularly as investors may start looking at it when assessing an organisation’s ESG agenda.
“Shareholders and investors are looking at that ESG data to see whether or not they want to invest, so that’s why in my view we need to fill in the ‘S’ in ESG with a wellbeing metric,” said Cunningham.