Grants of up to £10,000 could be available to small businesses who pledge to cut unnecessary stress and boost the health and wellbeing of staff under the pioneering Thrive at Work scheme.
Firms signing up for the West Midland Combined Authority (WMCA) scheme can also get expert help to reduce sickness absence and improve productivity.
The pilot project is now available to firms across the wider West Midlands area including Cannock Chase, Nuneaton and Bedworth, North Warwickshire, Bromsgrove, Redditch, Tamworth, Rugby, Stratford-upon-Avon, Telford and Wrekin, Warwick, Herefordshire and Shropshire
Thrive at Work is headed by Supt Sean Russell, director of implementation for health and wellbeing at the WMCA.
He says: “66 per cent of workplace absence in the UK is through either mental health or musculoskeletal problems.
"And some may be staff saying they’ve got a bad knee or back ache because it’s easier than saying they have anxiety or depression.
"So if we put the two together, actually that’s a massive opportunity to impact on productivity.
"If you build an environment that is healthy and well and linked to your values your people will stay longer.
“From work we’ve done with some organisations we found you can see a four per cent increase in their bottom line.”
It is estimated that firms with 250 employees lose about £250,000 a year due to avoidable sickness absence.
Under the trial scheme the WMCA is offering a free business toolkit, support, expert advice and potential access to grants for firms with between ten and 250 employees.
It is open to 148 SMEs in the WMCA area. Scores of firms in Birmingham, the Black County, Solihull and Coventry have already signed up.
Firms taking part will be split into two groups as part of an academic randomised control trial and their results compared.
One of the randomised groups will just be given the WMCA toolkit for improving wellbeing and the others will be given the toolkit and cash grants of up to £10,000 to be spent on wellbeing initiatives.
Alongside the pilot, businesses can work towards three levels of the Thrive at Work Commitment – Bronze, Silver and Gold. Businesses who show good practice and meet the standard will be eligible for a Wellbeing Award.
Organisations wishing to take part must sign a declaration committing their business to implement the programme, and will be provided with the tools and support to make it work.
Researchers will evaluate how the programme is implemented, interview employees to gauge its effectiveness, and businesses will be asked to feedback on how the commitment is working, its costs and effects.
For more information about Thrive at Work, and to sign up your business for the trial, visit: https://www.wmca.org.uk/what-we-do/thrive/thrive-at-work/