Lloyds CEO’s mental health experience led to wellbeing overhaul for 65,000 staff

Lianna Brinded
Head of Yahoo Finance UK
Antonio Horta-Osorio: 'At least one out of three people goes through a mental health problem through their lifetime. So it is actually much more common than you might think.' Photo: Simon Dawson/Reuters

Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY.L) CEO Antonio Horta-Osario famously took a leave of absence in 2011 for eight weeks after suffering from workplace stress, which at the time was quoted as “fatigue.”

Since then, Horta-Osario has been a public advocate for workplace wellbeing and has re-evaluated the importance of mental health for the group’s 65,000 employees.

In a new interview with the BBC to reignite awareness over how mental health issues risk “breaking employees’ lives and families,” he spoke about his experience and why it’s important that companies need to help provide the services and tools to help staff.

“I was very mindful that the bank was in a very weak position to face adversity,” he said, referencing the time where the bank was still 41% owned by the taxpayer.

“It was a problem that was going around my mind constantly, which led me to sleep less and less. And the less and less sleep progressively led me to exhaustion, and then to not sleeping at all which was a form of torture so I had to address it and I did.”

“I had the advantage in the sense of having had a personal experience that helped me be more sensitive, but I don't think that is a must. You don't have to have been through that. I learned the hard way. At least one out of three people goes through a mental health problem through their lifetime. So it is actually much more common than you might think.”

READ MORE: Three quarters of Brits say work is damaging their mental health

Horta-Osario has since made all senior executives attend a mental health awareness programme and has had thousands of employees trained as mental health first aiders.

An online portal was also set up for staff and they have been encouraged to use it if they are struggling with work or private issues.

There are numerous studies and surveys that show the impact mental health has on people’s livelihoods and the impact on the businesses they work for.

Brits work the longest hours in Europe, putting in about two-and-a-half weeks more per year than the typical European Union employee. On top of this, a third of Londoners work 50 hours or more a week.

About 40% of workers in Britain have financial worries which, in turn, has impacted their mental health and their work performance. The resulting in cost to British businesses is an estimated £39-51bn ($51-67bn) annually.

review by the UK government in 2017 showed that about 300,000 people with long-term mental health problems lose their jobs each year, costing the UK economy up to £99bn — of which employers bear the financial burden of £42bn. 

In a survey of 2,000 people by job board CV-Library, a staggering 82% of men claimed mental health issues affect their working life, compared with a slightly smaller 68% of women.