How to support employees’ mental health and wellbeing
Just as a physical health strategy isn’t solely about how many steps someone takes or what they eat, it’s important to take a multipronged approach when looking to support employees’ mental health and wellbeing.
It can also be a flexible approach, with factors such as budget, the nature of the workforce and what the company wants to achieve all helping to determine which steps and interventions are most appropriate.
With any mental health strategy, the right workplace culture is the most critical component. By talking openly about mental health and demonstrating that support is available it can help to break down the stigmas and make it much easier for employees to seek help if they’re experiencing an issue.
There are all sorts of ways to create this culture, including:
- Learn about mental health – worries about saying the wrong thing can deter people from talking about mental health so education and awareness can be invaluable. The Time to Change website is full of information and employees can also take Public Health England’s Your Mind Plan to gain insight into their own mental health and wellbeing.
- Run a mental health awareness event – events such as Time to Talk Day (February), Stress Awareness Month (April), and (World Mental Health Day - 10 October) provide the exposure to create great opportunities to talk about mental health in the workplace.
- Support a mental health charity – this demonstrates that the company takes mental health seriously and, by making it part of the fabric of the workplace, will encourage people to talk about their experiences.
- Highlight your mental health support – whether it’s an employee assistance programme or the option to work more flexibly, telling employees about the support that’s available will help those that may be experiencing an issue, but it will also demonstrate that mental health is important.
Free resources to help create a supportive culture
Supporting employees’ mental health and wellbeing does not have to be a costly exercise, with plenty of resources available for free. These can provide information, tools to support employees and help set the right tone in the workplace.
Among the free resources that are available are:
Mental health charity websites – charities such as Mind, Mental Health Foundation and Time to Change have lots of information about mental health and how to put it on the workplace agenda. As an example, Mind’s Mental Health at Work Commitment outlines six core standards that can form a guide for a workplace mental health strategy.
Government body websites – the NHS (www.nhs.uk) and Public Health England can provide information on mental health conditions and how to tackle them. Additionally, the Health and Safety Executive has information on work-related stress, including how to implement its Management Standards, which can help a company identify and tackle stress in the workplace.
Business support websites – organisations such as Business in the Community and the Federation of Small Businesses have plenty of resources and events to help businesses introduce a mental health strategy. As an example, BITC’s Wellbeing Workwell Model provides a framework for embedding health and wellbeing into organisational culture.
Investing in employee mental health
Although it’s possible to build a robust mental health and wellbeing strategy from the free resources that are available, many organisations look to invest further in employee mental health. This can give employees new skills and tools to safeguard their own and their colleagues’ mental health.
- Training programmes – Mental Health First Aid (mhfaengland.org) runs a variety of online and face-to-face courses. These show employees how to recognise the signs that someone is having a mental health issue, how to approach them and how to access support. Resilience training can also help employees become more aware of their mental health and how they can protect it.
- Employee assistance programme (EAP) – an EAP is normally a confidential helpline that can support employees with all sorts of life and work problems. They can often offer support on legal, financial and relationship concerns, as well as mental health issues. An EAP can be standalone, although they can also be included within group protection policies. Find out more about our EAP that’sprovided through our expert partner Health Assured,
- Mental wellbeing – a variety of apps and classes are available to support employees’ mental wellbeing including apps such as Unmind,Headspace and Thrive, yoga sessions and mindfulness classes and eLearning.
It’s an investment well worth making too. According to Deloitte, employers can expect an average return on investment of £5 for every £1 spent on mental health and wellbeing.
An insurance safety net
Insurance also has a role to play in an SME’s mental health strategy. Mental health problems are one of the leading causes of claims on group income protection, a product designed to support employees who are unable to work long-term due to illness or injury.
Although employers often take out group income protection to cover employees’ income if they’re long-term absent, the benefits can often go far beyond the financial. As well as including early intervention and rehabilitation services to support employees and enable them to return to health and work as quickly as possible. Policies can also include added-valued benefits such as EAPs that employees can use whether or not they need to claim.
More information about the benefits of our group income protection can be found here.