Along with the “war for talent”, increased recruitment drives and managing new hybrid working practices in recent times, HR have had the increasingly important challenge of further supporting employees with their mental wellbeing too.
Various figures show the size and complexity of the challenge.
- There was a reported 70% increase in stress-related absence in 2020 among HR professionals in the UK (e-days, 2020)
- 92% of employers say mental health has become an increased focus area since the impact of COVID-19 (AON, 2021)
- In 2019/20, there were an estimated 828,000 workers suffering from work-related stress, depression or anxiety in the UK (Health and Safety Executive, 2020).
Add to that, the recent cost of living crisis threatens to put employees and their families under more pressure.
However, HR have the power and ability to influence these changes to an extent and support employees with their mental wellbeing, which of course employee benefits can help with.
Here, we’ll look at some important employee benefits that can help employees with their mental health.
Due to the complexity of the employee mental wellbeing challenge, we’ll also offer a few extra considerations at the end as well as some links to extra resources which may help.
Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)
The EAP is a lot more comprehensive than many realise. It’s offered by most employers and can provide employees with support for just about any type of challenge they face.
It could be money worries, bereavement or even work-related stress. The EAP provides 24/7, completely confidential support from trained professionals for employees to utilise with confidence.
The EAP is a reactive tool, designed to support employees with their current challenges, as opposed to being a preventative tool, which we’ll discuss a little further here.
As mentioned, most employers have it, but not many employees are actually aware of its benefits and uses.
Perhaps the most important aspect of providing an EAP is your communication with employees about it. Employees must not only know it’s there should they need it, but they must also be fully aware of what it can be used for.
Your provider may be able to help with this. Any previous use cases can be useful too.
Health Cash Plan and Health Assessments
Your physical health and mental health work in tandem. If you improve one, it’s likely you’ll improve the other.
The Health Cash Plan helps employees claim back the cost of everyday healthcare and various treatments such as physiotherapy, while Health Assessments help give employees a comprehensive overview of both their physical and mental wellbeing.
While the EAP and Togetherall provide reactive measures to support employee mental wellbeing, benefits like these are more preventative by helping employees stay on top of their health before problems occur.
Providing all the benefits mentioned so far should help provide a well-rounded package of support for employees.
They’ll help your employees with their physical health while providing a few different options for mental wellbeing support, which should help them find the support channel they’re most comfortable with and get them on their way to improving their mental health.
The Gym Scheme and Bike to Work Scheme
Most of us know the importance of exercise on our mental wellbeing. These schemes help make exercise more fun and accessible and are hugely popular for those reasons.
The Gym Scheme makes health club and gym memberships much more affordable while the Bike Scheme helps employees save up to 42% on the cost of a new bike and accessories.
Improvements in physical health can help improve important body functions, sharpen our focus and improve our self-esteem, all things that can give us a helping hand in improving our mental wellbeing.
Healthy living resource centre
A healthy living resource centre can provide a whole range of advice for your employees through your employee benefits platform.
This can be both preventative and reactive in supporting employees.
Education around health, diet, exercise and overall wellbeing can help an employee better understand themselves, their mind and their overall health.
Thus, they can make more informed decisions on how to improve and maintain their health and wellbeing.
The healthy living resource centre can be a starting point for employees on their journey to improve their health, helping them source the right support for their needs.
Other ways to support employees
Employee health and wellbeing is a complex topic. There are loads of factors that can affect a person’s wellbeing, including many that are out of the employer’s control.
However, providing guidance, support, and a platform for building good mental health can be achieved by employers.
While employee benefits really can support this, there are lots of other ways to support employee wellbeing that should be considered too.
Job design and flexible working
Job design is perhaps an area that’s often overlooked when it comes to employee wellbeing.
Work-related stress can often stem from job design and the way a person’s work, or workload is structured.
There are many factors to the design of a role. Is the workload too high? Is it challenging enough or too challenging? Are there opportunities for progression?
Read more on this in our Mental Health at Work Guide.
Mindfulness can help you better understand your own mind and develop techniques to better manage your thoughts and feelings to improve your mental health.
It’s not always for everyone, but it has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms while increasing focus, self-awareness, enthusiasm and even empathy.
Read more on this in our guide to promoting mindfulness in the workplace.
Mental wellbeing training
Lots of businesses turn to charities and organisations specialised in providing mental health education to help train and teach employees.
This can include helping employees better understand their own mental health or training on how to spot the signs of poor mental health in colleagues.
Read more about this in our in-depth look at mental health training in the workplace.
Appoint a mental wellbeing champion
As we’ve mentioned, a big challenge people face when dealing with mental health issues is finding the right support for them.
Having a mental wellbeing champion in the workplace helps provide yet another support channel and demonstrates a real commitment to supporting employee mental wellbeing.
Read more showing support for employees in our article on demonstrating a commitment to employee mental wellbeing.
Promote financial wellbeing
The rising cost of living has been well documented and it’s likely to affect all of us. Financial wellbeing is often linked to our mental wellbeing.
Helping employees manage their finances has always been an important element of improving employee mental wellbeing, now more so than ever.
Remote and even hybrid working can make spotting the signs of poor mental health even more difficult, which adds to the complexity and challenging nature of improving employee mental wellbeing.
This is why it’s important for employers to provide multiple levels of support to help employees find the support channel they’re most comfortable with.
As we always maintain, it’s also important for employers to also recognise where the root cause of mental wellbeing issues may be caused by some aspect of the employee’s role, workplace or working environment such as with work-related stress for example.
Issues such as these should be addressed first before any further support is considered to improve mental wellbeing.
The role of a person’s employer in their mental wellbeing can’t be understated. Supporting employees with their mental wellbeing is a win-win for everyone, and while it can be a complex issue, the rewards for employers in recognising their role and providing the right support can be huge!