Mental health: using employee benefits to tackle mental health in the workplace.

One in six British workers is affected by mental health problems such as anxiety, depression and stress every year. Poor mental health costs employers an estimated £33 billion to £42 billion each year, according to a UK government review of work and mental health.

With such a high price tag, supporting employees’ wellbeing isn’t just the right thing to do. It makes good business sense.

Employers are increasingly focusing on mental health as part of broader wellness programmes. So, how can companies use their benefits schemes to support teams during tough times? Here’s a holistic view. Looking at three areas of health: mind, body and spirit.

Mind: encouraging balance

Stress can have an enormous effect on mental health. The coronavirus pandemic has piled on the pressure even more for some employees who need to juggle competing demands, in and out of work hours.

Offering individuals flexibility in their work schedules has become essential during the lockdown. While working from home, flexitime policies allow employees to adapt their work around their schedules. Such policies also take the pressure off employees who may be struggling with mental health challenges, as they won’t have to complete all tasks within traditional working hours.

For staff who might need extended time off, an option to buy extra annual leave can provide some much-needed breathing room.

Tackling money worries

According to YouGov, more than a third of Britons say their income has taken a hit during the lockdown. Moreover, the Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts that the British economy could shrink by 35%, triggering the deepest recession in three centuries, it’s not surprising that money worries could be causing employees sleepless nights.

Offering debt counselling services through Employee Assistance Programmes and signposting debt charities could help ease some anxiety.

Body: moving mindfully

Encouraging employees to be physically active might be harder when homeworking. It rules out the possibility of a weekly office yoga class.

But exercise has proven to be as effective in treating depression as some pharmaceutical treatments. Employers can promote exercise through cycle to work schemes and subsidising or paying for gym memberships. Both are effective and popular employee benefits.

“What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candour, more unashamed conversation.”

Glenn Close

Spirit: shining a light on mental health

One of the best ways to tackle stigma is to foster a company culture of openness and awareness of mental health issues.

Are managers comfortable talking about mental health? Do forums encourage “unashamed conversations” as Glenn Close describes?

Mental health awareness and training programmes can equip employees with the practical skills to spot the triggers and signs of issues. It could increase confidence in supporting those in distress.

Mind, Body and Spirit: employee benefits to support mental health 

There are other ways that employee benefits can go further on behalf of your employees’ mental health. Supporting the mind, body and spirit needs of your employees has a direct impact on productivity and failure to recognise this often leads to the greatest economic cost to employers.

Some of the employee benefits and additional support that employers can put in place include:

  • PMI, which offers counselling, psychotherapy, mental health hotline, quick access to phone-based GPs, fitness-based benefits etc.
  • For people doing any DIY/work around the home, physiotherapy cover or physical activity benefits are available options.
  • Tailored employee communications reminding them of all the benefits on offer by their employer.
  • Highlighting specific benefits that may be relevant to employees at this current time, outline how to make a claim and reassure employees that making a claim is perfectly OK and that it doesn’t affect their employment record.

And finally: spread the news

Companies may have excellent support in place, but are all employees aware of what’s on offer? Sometimes a reminder and affirmation can be empowering and thus, it could be exactly what employees need to hear.

Use opportunities such as Mental Health Awareness Week and similar campaigns to shine a spotlight on your benefits package. Encourage your mental health first aiders to talk about their training.

At a time when many are feeling isolated or anxious, it’s important for employees to be aware of the support that’s available to them.

It can only help to bring more sunlight, candour and unashamed conversation to the table. That’s always welcome.

If you’d like more information on how employee benefit schemes can have a positive impact in your workplace, speak to our Futura Corporate team on 01224 582185.