HR360 Summit 2021


Virtual Event

Here’s How Netflix, Barclays and GSK are Breaking Down the Stigma Around Mental Health

The past few years has seen a slew of exposés detailing how overworked employees are burning out, accumulating mental and physical illnesses due to work related stress, and even falling asleep at their desks. In fact, in Japan where the aging population massively outnumbers the amount of young workers supporting them, falling asleep at your desk is commended. Working to the point of exhaustion, or ‘inemuri’, is praised as a sign of commitment and diligence.

While in some countries, laws are enforced to make sure companies take responsibility for their staff’s wellbeing, much of the working world hails unhealthy working hours as a sign of dedication. However, since the number of working days lost to stress rose by almost a quarter last year, HR departments across the world have taken heed. Stress, depression and anxiety accounted for 57% of all working days lost in 2017/18, leading companies to seriously rethink their approach to employee wellbeing.

A few years ago people were much more skeptical of wellbeing initiatives, but now the conversation about mental health has begun to open up, with many celebrities and social media influencers speaking openly about their experiences. Problems with mental health are much less easily swept under the rug nowadays, and as a society we’re more understanding than we once were. As millennials enter the work force, priorities are shifting, and a healthy work life balance has become an expectation. However, for big businesses, the numbers don’t add up.

While a recent study found that almost all employers agree that a happy worker is a productive worker, fewer than half of organisations feel they deal with mental health issues effectively in the workplace. According to a new report, almost seven in ten UK managers still feel that there are structural barriers in place preventing them from supporting their staff when issues related to stress emerge.

Gimmicky mandatory fun has elicited a record number of eye-rolls, filling start-ups and big brand offices across the globe with ball-pits and hover boards to destress employees. However, there is something to be said for showing your staff that you’re invested in their wellbeing. You don’t need chocolate fountains in the office to prove you have your staff’s best interests at heart, but there are a few meaningful measures that can be taken to combat consistent sources of stress for employees.

From generation to generation, employees have a host of issues that are ticking away in the back of their minds throughout the work day. While younger generations experience stress related to making ends meet with the high cost of living, workers in their thirties are often juggling work and family life, and more senior employees are tasked with finding care for elderly parents and in-laws.

Policies such as paid family leave with options for elder care, and childcare programmes speak much louder than a bowl of fruit or casual Fridays. 81% of managers said staff mental wellbeing was their responsibility, and despite WBR’s survey of 100 Directors of HR finding that wellbeing initiatives offering a proven ROI, a shocking 64% of managers confirmed they had put “the interests of their organisation” before staff wellbeing. Read on to find out how three massive brands are leading by example, and investing in the wellbeing of their staff.


Barclays launched its ‘This is Me’ campaign five years ago, asking employees to share their stories and address the stigma around mental health head on. Nearly 200 stories were collected, and since the launch of the project, the website has had more than 60,000 visits, helping to break the cultural silence surrounding mental health.

“The organisation is retaining talent as more employees successfully return to work after mental health-related leaves of absence,” says Amanda Popiela, who wrote Barclay’s Mental Health and Well-being in the Workplace report. Since the launch, twenty-two companies followed suit with similar campaigns to this one, reaching nearly 400,000 employees across the globe.


Employees of the world’s most successful streaming platform are offered perks beyond health and financial benefits. Netflix has done away with 9-to-5 workdays and prescribed holiday schedules, meaning staff have the flexibility to choose what’s important to them, and are encouraged to take breaks when their mind or body need a rest.

While this isn’t an outright mental health programme, Netflix has given their employees room to prioritise their wellbeing, and with policies such as generous parental leave and flexible holiday, employees suffering from stress are much more likely to return.


Pharmaceuticals giant GSK has partnered with Laya Healthcare to introduce elements of their ‘Thrive in Mind’ programme, including the innovative Mindscore online assessment. The Mindscore tool anonymously collects data from employees to tailor initiatives to the company. Employees fill out a questionnaire asking about mood, anxiety, stress, and other aspects of mental wellbeing. Employees receive personalised results and suggestions for support.

“This was a very positive step,” said Joe Sherlock, Corporate Manager at Laya Healthcare. “It demonstrated the organisation’s commitment to mental health and wellbeing and helps break down the stigma surrounding the issue. Employees know they can go to their manager with a mental health issue just the same as they can with a physical problem like a bad back.”

Employee wellbeing is set to be a hot topic at HR360 this year in Vienna. Download the agenda to find out more about the speakers, sessions and events we’ve planned for this year.

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