< Back

How flexible working helps my mental health & well-being

In this blog our CEO and Co-Founder Molly shares how crucial flexible working has been when it comes to improving mental health and well-being, and how it has personally impacted her life. 

20th May 2024

I'm Molly, the CEO and Co-Founder of Flexa. Flexa was launched after I was sacked from my investment banking job for requesting flexible working to manage my autoimmune disease. Now, I help people find flexible companies that let them work in a way that better suits them.

In this blog,I'll share more about my personal mental health story, how companies can do more to support mental health at work, and why flexible working needs to be at the forefront when you’re embedding mental health into your Employee Value Proposition (EVP).

Employees expect more mental health & well-being support from companies

1 in 6 people experience mental health problems in the workplace every year, and more than 52% feel like they don’t get the support they need. These statistics can’t be ignored. With the demand for support in the workplace stronger than ever, it’s no surprise that 60% of our Flexified companies offer some kind of mental health support, including mental health days, access to resources, and well-being allowances.

Since the pandemic, 81% of workplaces have increased their focus on employee mental health. While life has returned to some semblance of normality for most people, the past couple of years have been an eye-opener when it comes to balancing work and personal lives, and how mental health is managed.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced many of us to confront the importance of mental health in our daily lives. As the world adapted to remote work and faced various challenges, mental health concerns became more prominent. With this shift, many companies recognised the need to prioritise mental health in the workplace. Beyond the pandemic, the focus on employee well-being remains crucial, and flexible working has played a big part by giving employees more freedom to manage their work schedules.

My personal story: How flexible working helped my mental health

Flexible working can be a lifeline for mental health. I have first-hand experience of this – here’s why…

Let's start at the beginning: I've lived with an autoimmune disease since I was 18. It hit me hard, leaving me bed-bound for weeks at a time and flaring up every couple of weeks. Despite this, I graduated from Oxford with a first class degree and joined the world of investment banking. But the long hours and stress were a terrible fit for my health.

After 18 months of struggling, I was told by HR that they were open to flexible working requests. I was surprised by this, but I put in a request to work from home one day per week when my symptoms were bad. 10 days after I made this request, a settlement package was put in front of me, and I was told to leave immediately. I wasn’t even allowed to say goodbye or pick up my belongings.

I sat on a bench outside and cried, devastated that I’d been stupid enough to let my autoimmune disease get me into this position. After a few days of feeling miserable, I picked myself back up and dusted myself off, and plunged myself back into the job hunting process.

It was a struggle to find a company that embraced flexible working. Recruiters laughed off my requests, and scepticism about my illness followed me everywhere. Eventually, I found a truly flexible company where working from home was the norm. My health improved dramatically, with flare-ups becoming rare. Maurice, my husband and co-founder, experienced a similar flexibility at Betfair, and that's where the idea for Flexa was born. We wanted to make flexible working the norm, not the exception. I know my story is just one of many, and I’m now proud to help  companies showcase their flexible working environments, changing lives like mine.

10 companies leading the way with their mental health benefits

Companies are increasingly realising that supporting employees' mental well-being is not just a moral imperative, but also makes good business sense: especially given that poor mental health costs UK employers around $56 billion every year.  As a result, many organisations are expanding their benefits packages to include various mental health initiatives. This includes offering mental health days, providing access to mental health platforms and resources, and introducing well-being allowances. These initiatives aim to create a supportive environment where employees feel valued, understood, and able to thrive both personally and professionally.

Here are some of our Flexified companies who are leading the way with their benefits packages.

  1. Multiverse
  2. Seatfrog
  3. Tui
  4. Storyblok
  5. Virgin Media 02
  6. Brit Insurance
  7. Centrica
  8. City & Guilds
  9. Microsoft
  10. Mondelēz International

Beyond yoga & free pizza: How to embed mental health into your EVP

Beyond the usual perks like yoga classes and free pizza, it's important for companies to embed mental health into their Employee Value Proposition (EVP).

The reality is that employees no longer just want:

🍕 Free pizza 🍺 Friday afternoon at the pub 🍎 Free fruit ☕ A fancy coffee machine 🧁 A cupcake to show much you appreciate them

Of course these perks are nice to have, but do they impact employee mental health? Not likely.

The focus needs to be on: 🫶 Empathetic managers who understand how their employees need to work 🤸 Flexible working arrangements so they can better manage work-life balance 📚 Access to resources that will help them with their mental well-being ♥️ Mental health initiatives such as mental health platforms, mental health days and well-being allowances 💰 Salary benchmarking so employees can feel financially secure

🪴 Learning and development opportunities to help them progress 

By prioritising mental well-being, companies not only support their employees' health but also increase productivity and create a positive workplace culture. Here are four effective ways to embed mental health into your EVP:

  1. Flexible working policies: Offer flexible working arrangements such as remote work, flexible hours, or compressed workweeks to support employees in managing their work-life balance and reducing stress.
  2. Comprehensive mental health benefits: Provide access to mental health resources, such as counselling services, therapy apps, or employee assistance programs, to ensure employees have the support they need when facing mental health challenges.
  3. Training and education: Offer training programs such as mental health first aid courses and workshops to raise awareness about mental health issues, reduce stigma, and provide employees with tools and strategies for managing stress, building resilience, and supporting their peers. Make sure managers are well equipped to deal with mental health issues in the workplace, especially when it comes to managing remote teams.
  4. Create a supportive culture: Create a workplace environment where open communication about mental health is encouraged, and where managers and colleagues are supportive and understanding. Encourage regular check-ins and provide opportunities for employees to share their experiences and seek help when needed.