Why Employees' Mental Health Should be Top of Your Agenda

It's Mental Health Awareness Week 

Here's why employee mental health should be the top of your agenda...

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week which aims to help everyone in the UK achieve good mental health across both their personal and professional lives. This last year has been extremely tough for many of us, with feelings of isolation, anxiety and stress caused by Covid-19 and the lockdowns.

So, it’s no surprise that mental health issues are increasing, according to HSE almost half of all work-related ill health cases in 2019/2020 were caused by stress, depression or anxiety.

Although the vaccine rollout is progressing well, and as a nation we’re starting to ease out of our respective lockdowns, mental health should still be top of all employer’s priorities. Putting mental health at the top of your agenda will help you attract and retain top talent and improve your employee's morale and experiences both in and outside of work.

Here’s what might be impacting your employee's mental health this year... 

The ongoing effects of the Covid-19 pandemic:

Between not being able to see friends and family, furlough and anxieties around our physical health, Covid-19 has taken its toll on our mental wellbeing. With depression in adults more than doubling since the start of the pandemic (ONS). But it’s not just chronic depression, or other serious illnesses, many of us are feeling a general state of stagnation and emptiness known as languishing. Between not knowing if we will be able to go on holiday this year or just a general feeling of aimlessness, languishing might last long into 2021.

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The blurring between home and work:

Before 2020, many of us may have worked from home on the odd occasion whether that was to make sure we were in to accept a package or because we had a doctor’s appointment. But, now many of us have been remote working for over a year now, and although there are some benefits of it (non-existent commutes and more time with family), it can be trickier to separate our work and home lives.

According to Aviva, 52% of employees found the boundaries between work and home are becoming increasingly distorted, which is a 40% increase since February 2020. And, with hybrid working set to by the way forward, this may continue if interventions aren’t made.

Continuing anxieties about Covid-19 and return to office:

In the last year, GPs and mental health experts have seen a rise in Covid-19 specific anxiety, with 49.6% of the UK experiencing high levels of anxiety last year (ONS) and with many offices considering opening back up in some capacity, these anxieties won’t necessarily go away. In fact, research shows that 65% of employees are anxious about the prospect of going back to the office.

Increase in demand for mental health support, but it’s still not seen as a priority:

Although more than half of the UK’s employers say they had seen an increase in employee demand for mental health, 43% of businesses said that it was not a cultural priority (Koa Health). As an employer you have a duty of care for your employees, including looking after their mental health.

 

How employers can support mental health:

It’s clear that employee’s will continue to need mental health support long after Covid-19, and it will not only benefit your employees, it will help your business too. It can help boost productivity, engagement, reduce turnover and make you an employer of choice.

Here’s just a few ways you can help your staff:

  • Make the most of benefits you are already offering: many employees may not be aware of the benefits you have, or if they are, the extent to which they can help. Make sure you’re regularly communicating your employee benefits like Employee Assistance Programmes, and go in to detail about exactly what support is available and how your employees can access it.
  • Hold regular sessions to talk about mental health: whether that’s a monthly webinar giving advice about managing stress or work life balance or weekly meditation and mindfulness sessions.
  • Listen to your employee’s concerns: many of your team could be concerned about the return to office, among other things, so make sure you talk to them and see how you can help.
  • Promote a healthy work-life balance: having a good balance between our work and our home lives can help with our mental health as it can help reduce stress. Plus, it can help you have healthier and more productive employees and you can attract the top talent, with 65% of workers ranking it as the most important consideration when looking for a new job (Randstad).
  • Provide training for your line managers: the managers in your company are the best placed to look after their teams, so make sure they know what the signs of mental health issues are and where employees can get further support.
  • Have your senior leaders set an example: when the senior leaders in your business are prioritising their own wellbeing, it makes it easier for all employees to do so to. So make sure they are setting boundaries between work and home, establishing healthy habits like taking a lunch break, and not continuing to work long into the evening.
  • Continue to normalise mental health: although talking about mental health is becoming less stigmatised, there’s still a long way to go, with only 14% of employees feeling comfortable discussing their mental health worries at work (Mental Health First Aid England). Make sure it is a regular topic of discussion in business updates, team meetings and one on one sessions. Here’s more advice on creating a culture that’s open about mental health at work.

 

How we can help:

If you need support creating a wellbeing strategy that puts your employee’s mental health and wellbeing at its heart we can help. Get in touch with our experts today to see how we can help you create a workplace culture that is open about mental health.

Employee Assistance Programmes

Sources:

HSE
ONS
Aviva
ONS
Bupa
Randstad
Mental Health First Aid England