There has been a focus in various outlets on improving the general awareness of mental health in recent years, which has been a very positive step forward. Whilst we have not completely eradicated the 'stigma' that comes with it, more and more people are now comfortable talking about their mental health.
However, this is not always the case in the workplace and millions of working days are lost each year due to mental health issues in the UK. Whilst early diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions can make a huge impact in terms of recovery rates, many people delay seeking help for mental health conditions due to common misconceptions that surround them.
Although the majority of people could identify the key symptoms that come with Depression and Anxiety, other conditions such as Bipolar, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are mental health conditions that are not as well recognised. It's clear that everyone needs support in this area from time to time, and there are policies that companies can implement to help improve mental health within the workplace.
Employee assistance programmes (EAPs), flexible working or work-life balance policies, and access to education and guidance are the most commonly offered benefits to support employees' mental health, a new study has found.
In a survey of 202 HR decision makers and influencers for this year's Employee Benefits/Health Shield Healthcare research, nearly all (90%) said their organisation offers an EAP as part of their approach to supporting the mental health of staff. This has remained in top position for the past three years.
Growing numbers of employers are giving their staff the opportunity to work flexibly, or providing other policies centred on boosting work-life balance, with almost three-quarters (71%) now offering these initiatives to support employees' mental health. As well as benefiting mental wellbeing, such policies can have a positive impact on productivity and engagement, Employee Benefits noted.
Meanwhile, the provision of education and guidance, such as workshops and online information services, was cited by about two-fifths of respondents and has remained steadily popular as another method of supporting mental health.
In the 21 years since the annual study was first launched the industry has seen numerous changes in attitudes to employee health and what organisations offer to support it, according to Debbie Lovewell-Tuck, Employee Benefits editor.
"One of the biggest changes has been in how some areas of healthcare benefits are perceived," she said. "When we first launched this research, for example, wellbeing was seen very much as a fluffier, softer area, largely due to the challenge of proving a solid return on investment (ROI). Benefits strategies were much more likely to include healthcare benefits, such as private medical insurance (PMI), for which a tangible ROI was easier to prove.
"Over the years, however, employers have increasingly embraced employee wellbeing, recognising the positive impact that doing so can have on factors such as recruitment, retention, loyalty and productivity, to name but a few. This is reflected in the fact that 11 of the top 20 core health benefits offered by respondents now fall into the category of wellbeing support.
"A growing acceptance of the advantages of supporting employee wellbeing is also apparent in the increased importance employers now place on mental health; about four-fifths (79%) now offer relevant support for employees, up from 67% just two years ago. This is reflective of the wider societal trend that has seen conversations open up around mental health issues."
This year's survey also sought to find out how many employers provide trained mental health first aiders within the workforce -- placing mental wellbeing alongside physical health and safety. It's an initiative that is growing in popularity, and the study found that 38% currently provide this for employees.
Although it's clear that companies are working hard to improve when it comes to mental health, there is still more that can be done and professional advice may aid with this.
Fidelius is experienced not only in designing employee benefit programmes, but also reviewing and ensuring what a company has is fit for purpose. If you are looking to understand how your benefits package can aid with your employees' mental health and work/life balance, then please feel free to contact us to discuss this in more detail.