Awareness of mental health issues and how they can be treated is on the rise, yet it remains a significant problem in the UK, not least for employers.
Although mental health issues are said to affect around a third of the population, 40% of employees would not feel comfortable raising the issue with an employer or colleague (according to PWC). Moreover, the mental health charity Mind has suggested that mental health issues such as stress are the number one cause of workplace absence.
So what steps can employers take to support mental health and wellbeing in their workforce?
Employee assistance programmes (EAPs)
EAPs provide counselling and support services for employees and/or members of their families. When Xexec first started out in the world of employee benefits over 15 years ago, EAPs were all the rage and remain one of the main tools for dealing with occupational stress and anxiety. Critics of the approach argue that they focus only on dealing with issues once they have occurred, rather than tackling the issue of mental health at an organisational level. However an increasing number of employers are offering EAPs as part of a broader ‘wellbeing’ strategy, which brings us to our next point.
It’s important for employers to provide their staff with the right training and education around mental health issues, both to reduce the stigma attached to it, and to provide team members with the tools to deal with it. This can range from simple awareness raising initiatives to teaching managers how to spot symptoms and know how to deal with them.
Earlier this month was Mental Health Awareness week and we saw some great examples of businesses trying to raise awareness, from implementing swear boxes to generate monetary donations to mental health charities, to inviting in well-known charities to host seminars and sessions on mental health.
Creating a culture that values health, wellbeing and peer-to-peer support is crucial and it’s important that your whole team genuinely buys into this philosophy, including managers. Incorporating ideas such as ‘support’, or ‘wellbeing’ into your corporate values can also be a good way reinforcing this type of thinking. These should also link directly with your reward and recognition strategy, given that they are behaviours and values that you will want to actively celebrate and encourage.
Employers can do a lot via their employee benefits to foster mental health and wellbeing. This could include employee discount schemes for mental health checks and assessments, for both employees and their family members, but also relates to supporting their general wellbeing. Understanding, for example, the importance of physical wellbeing, work life balance and financial wellbeing can make a big different to your employees lives. Different employee benefits that are relevant here could include gym membership (salary sacrifice), lifestyle concierge, or even just discounts on every day shopping. Some employers will have a dedicated wellbeing portal, whereby they provide access different related benefits (salary sacrifice alongside voluntary benefits and concierge) alongside information. All of this can make a notable difference to your staff’s overall wellbeing.
If you’re interested in finding out more about how you can support your employees’ mental health and wellbeing, simply get in touch.