Your Greatest Wealth is your Health

12 January 17


In the last century BC Roman poet Virgil wrote “The greatest wealth is health.”  Jump forward to the early 21st century and the saying still applies.

Undoubtedly, one of the biggest health issues of today is mental ill health.  And while your greatest wealth is your health, a company’s greatest wealth is the health of it’s people.

Mental Health at Work

3 out of 10 of us will experience a mental health problem each year.  Collectively, we lose 80 million working days a year to anxiety and depression.

Behaviours such as nervousness, restlessness, or irritability are signs of anxiety and depression at work.  Physical complaints, such as aches and pains, can also occur.  Moreover, employees may become passive, withdrawn, aimless, and unproductive. They may also be fatigued or have poor judgment or decision making.

Furthermore, while the effect on individuals can be devastating, the wider costs of mental ill health are truly staggering.

UK loses billions

A recent UK Government report estimated the cost of mental ill health to be over £100 billion.  Absence, lost productivity and staff turnover costs £27 billion .  Depression, anxiety and stress are now some of the leading causes of sickness absence. Translate that to individual companies and the effects can be pernicious.

As a result, workplace mental ill health  has risen rapidly up the agenda. The positive link between employee wellbeing and company success are better understood.. Some companies have put in place strategies to improve.  Many others are only just beginning to realise its importance.

Biggest Causes

Two factors above all can lead to workplace mental ill health.*

  1. Jobs that have high demands with little or no control over how to manage workload.  These expose individuals to greater likelihood of anxiety and depressions.
  2. Employees who make a big  effort but have little or no reward or recognition. They also have a much higher risk of developing these mental health problems.

However, other risk factors also exist.  These include a lack of support from colleagues and managers.  Job insecurity is also a risk.

Workplace Mental Health Strategy

Although the effects can be serious, there are many ways to reduce workplace mental ill health.  As with all strategies,  it is best to diagnose the problem before finding the solution.  Here is how you can do it.

  • Identify the problem and its extent.  Two of the best ways of doing this are through staff surveys and analysis of sickness absence data.  Check if any of the  risk factors identified earlier exists.
  • Identify the best solutions.   For example, if workload is high with little control over demand, make sure people feel valued.  Particularly where there is a lot of absence due to stress. In any case, ensure support is in place during busy periods.
  • Recognise big effort and success.  This does not always mean by extra pay.  Sometimes, all that is needed is a quiet thank you.
  • Front line managers are key.  If risk factors exist make sure your managers are able to support and spot signs of mental ill health.   In addition, they should praise and recognise when credit is due.
  • Keep monitoring. Use data and surveys to check if your interventions are working.


In conclusion, by reducing workplace mental ill health, you can improve the health and wealth of your organisation and its people. As the ancient Greek philosopher Plato said, “The part can never be well unless the whole is well.”

*Thanks to Katherine Evans and Science for Work for some of the source material.



I commissioned Norman to help embed our new values across our hospice and head office sites.  He quickly understood the challenges we faced and was able to identify the practical and achievable steps necessary to build on our values in order to improve engagement and performance throughout the organisation.  In doing this he quickly gained the confidence of our staff and had great professional credibility with our leadership team.  His work has enabled us to put our values at the heart of all we do.

David Burland – CEO, Shooting Star Chase Children’s Hospice Care