Posted by Charles Ashwell on Wednesday July 21, 2021
Living through the COVID-19 crisis has been incredibly challenging and those challenges don’t necessarily go away when things return to normal. Your employees may be feeling ‘reopening anxiety’ or are simply burned out after a stressful 18 months.
So this is a timely opportunity for HR leaders to think about what mental health support they currently offer and how employees are accessing it. There is a growing demand for mental health services which are delivered wherever and whenever employees need it.
A hidden epidemic
Even pre-Covid, work-related stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 44% of work-related ill health and 54% of working days lost (HSE, 2019). During the pandemic many of us struggled with uncertainty, health anxiety, isolation, and bereavement, with negative consequences for our physical and mental health.
However, employees may not wish to talk about mental health at work for fear of casting doubts on their competence. It’s possible that employees are putting on a brave face during work hours, but you often can’t tell when - or how much - illness is hindering someone’s performance.
However, a large-scale study of UK workplaces in 2018 revealed that mental health problems are a significant driver of productivity loss, costing the UK as a whole the equivalent of £38bn. So just because people aren’t comfortable talking about it, doesn’t mean it’s not affecting your business.
In this situation, employees may well prefer to access confidential support, via their own device, in the privacy of their home – or indeed anywhere they feel comfortable. The need for social distancing has accelerated the rise of mental health services delivered remotely and this shows no sign of slowing down.
So what services can you put in place to provide help wherever and whenever it’s needed?
Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)
This has a confidential phone line which staff can call 24/7 to speak with a trained advisor about anything that’s worrying them and get actionable advice. They can also arrange sessions with a professional counsellor, either over the phone or by meeting face-to-face.
This is an incredibly valuable service that employees can access in privacy, at no cost to them. EAPs offer advice on a huge range of complex issues; although sometimes all that’s required is someone to share a problem with in the wee small hours.
A range of resources and information available from the experts to help guide people through difficult periods in their life. Personal Group offer Hapi-life free of charge to all policyholders and Hapi users, which provides accessible and fact-checked advice on a range of wellbeing topics.
There’s so much health advice out there - and often contradictory - that it can be useful for employees to have everything in one place, coming from a trusted source. You can curate your own content, or feel free to share our Hapi-life articles.
Online GP appointments
Employees may be suffering from conditions which are not obvious from the outside but have a severe impact on daily life and can be difficult to discuss in a work context.
Being able to speak in confidence with a medical professional at a time that’s convenient to them saves the employee stress, and their employer gets back potential time lost to attend GP appointments during work hours.
The GP can provide clarity on the situation and information on treatment options which helps the employee feel more in control.
Mental health apps
These provide a convenient way for employees to manage common mental health conditions like anxiety and stress. Apps provide simple exercises, tools and techniques that match individual mental fitness needs. The great advantage to apps is they can be accessed by the employee anytime, anywhere and they help build mental resilience in the long term.
While mental health is understandably high on the agenda at the moment, a complete wellbeing strategy can make a long-term difference to productivity across the workforce. Mental, physical, financial and social wellbeing are all linked, and a successful strategy needs to embrace all of these aspects.
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