What if your job was good for you?

Post author image. Louise Aston
Business in the Community’s Wellbeing Director Louise Aston makes the case for putting wellbeing at the heart of business planning and job design.
Louise Aston

Amid COVID-19 there is an opportunity to create new ways of working that tackle the root causes of poor mental health at work. This is an issue affecting many employees, and even more so with the pressures of the pandemic. According to Business in the Community’s (BITC) Mental Health at Work 2020 report, 41% of employees experienced poor mental health symptoms related to work in 2020¹.

The leading causes of poor mental health at work are:

  • excessive pressure
  • workload
  • long hours
  • lack of annual leave

Tackling poor mental health at work

Although work can be part of the cause of poor mental health, it can also be part of the solution to improving it. COVID-19 has acted as a powerful catalyst to transform the world of work. For example, employees who never dreamed of working remotely and flexibly are now doing so.

In my view the pandemic has elevated mental health on a par with physical health but there is still not parity between physical and psychological safety that promotes mental health. People do not expect to be physically injured at work, and nor should their mental health be damaged. Psychological safety should not only protect mental health but also promote better employee mental health and wellbeing, business success and broader societal benefits.

Currently there is no shared understanding of the meaning of ‘psychological safety’ – no generic definition or operational standard. This is important to establish in order to achieve this parity. BITC will be tackling this challenge in the next few months with the publication of a White Paper.

The pandemic has elevated mental health on a par with physical health but there is still not parity between physical and psychological safety that promotes mental health.

Louise Aston, Wellbeing Director, BITC

A new way of working

COVID-19 has brought to the fore the importance of holistic wellbeing, where physical, mental, financial and social wellbeing are considered inextricably linked. Therefore, a whole person approach is necessary.

Employers need to be aware that as the acute COVID-19 phase finishes, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may be experienced, as well as the prolonged suffering of long COVID. Poor mental health is not going away. Workplaces should be part of the solution with good mental health as a driver for workplace creativity and productivity.

Along with wellbeing, the environment has also come to the fore. Biophilia, meaning love of nature, focuses on the innate attraction to nature and natural processes of humans. There are both physical and mental health benefits of connecting with nature. Many of us have found that spending time in green space or bringing nature into our everyday life can benefit our mental and physical wellbeing.

Getting started

At BITC we understand that every business is at a different point on their mental health and wellbeing journey. Some businesses do not know how to improve ways of working while others are struggling with senior buy-in. BITC is in a unique position to help both through our convening power and ability to provide practical solutions.

Here are four areas to help your business get started.

Mental Health at Work Commitment

Business in the Community’s Wellbeing Workwell Model

  • Use the BITC Wellbeing Workwell Model, as a framework for embedding mental health and wellbeing into the heart of your organisational strategy and purpose. There is no health without mental health and the model takes a whole person and whole organisation approach.

Establish empathy, compassion and inclusion

  • Empathy and compassion need to be authentic, visible, related to humans and not just lip service.
  • Many leaders will be questioning how they can be empathetic and compassionate when forced to make redundancies. We use empathy and compassion with our friends and family, this needs to be brought into the workplace with every conversation we have.
  • Establish empathy, compassion and inclusion as core leadership competencies. Empathy can be taught; consider using BITC’s training for senior leaders and line managers as your foundation.
  • To be genuinely empathetic, you need to create an active listening culture. Understand how your people are feeling to inform an integrated strategy. Regular pulse surveys and active listening sessions are examples of ways to inform an integrated strategy. Communicate ‘you said, we did’.


  • What gets measured gets managed. Monitor excessive pressure and workload through your organisational risk register. Continuously improve your evidence-based wellbeing strategy.

To achieve sustainable mental health and wellbeing, employers need to consider looking at wellbeing through multiple lenses included in the UN’s Global Goals, also known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS), including good work, diversity and inclusion and the environment.

So, how does this happen in practice?

Making work a great place to be, where people can be at their very best is the aim of many BITC members. For example, Anglian Water’s award-winning wellbeing strategy was designed in alignment with BITC’s Workwell Model, which recommends embedding health and wellbeing into an organisation’s culture.

Build back responsibly

At BITC we want to learn from the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic and shape future ways of working that enhance wellbeing. Our Build Back Responsibly campaign sets out new priorities for how business can deliver the change that is needed for society and the planet. In collaboration with our partners and stakeholders we are producing a White Paper to engage business to collaboratively drive action which will be published in summer 2021.

One of BITC’s key aims is for UK employers to lead the world in sustainable ways of working that are good for mental health and wellbeing, UK success and competitiveness. If you would like to be part of this talk to one of our expert team today to learn how membership of BITC can help you take your responsible business journey further and drive lasting change.



¹ Business in the Community Mental Health at Work 2020: key findings, (October 2020).

¹ Business in the Community (2020) Mental Health at Work 2020: key findings, October 2020, available at https://www.bitc.org.uk/report/mhaw2020/.