Putting science to work: Understanding what works for workplace mental health
This report summarises what we’ve learned from our first commission on promising approaches for addressing workplace mental health. It also sets out why businesses and researchers need to work together to take a more scientific approach to supporting mental health at work.
- findings from ten research projects that looked at the evidence behind promising approaches for supporting workplace mental health
- suggested actions businesses can take, based on this evidence
- reflections on gaps in the evidence and why it’s important for businesses and scientists to work together to understand what works.
Who this is for
- policy makers
Businesses all over the world are thinking about how they can most effectively support the mental health of their staff, even more so in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. But despite growing interest and investment in workplace mental health initiatives in recent years, there is still so much we don’t know about what works and what doesn’t.
In 2020, Wellcome commissioned ten global research teams to look at the existing evidence behind a single promising approach for addressing anxiety and depression in the workplace, with a focus on younger workers.
Key findings include:
- Excessive sitting has risks for both physical and mental health. Reducing the time office workers spend sitting by an hour a day may reduce depression symptoms by approximately 10% and anxiety symptoms by around 15%.
- Flexible working can benefit mental health by decreasing the amount of conflict people experience between their work and home lives. This conflict can be a source of stress and may contribute to anxiety and depression.
- More job autonomy is associated with lower rates of anxiety and depression. Employers can increase employees’ autonomy by allowing them more freedom to craft how they do their roles.
- There is significant evidence from high-income countries to show that workplace mindfulness interventions have a positive impact on mental health. But far less is known about their effectiveness in low- and middle-income countries.
The research identifies important gaps in our knowledge about what works. Businesses and scientists need to work together to fill these gaps in the evidence to understand how employers can most effectively support the mental health of their staff.