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Why now is a good time to talk mental health

2020-10-07

Wellness

Posted on: 2020-10-07

This Saturday, the tenth of October, is World Mental Health Day 2020. This falls several months into a global pandemic and as many parts of the UK have reimposed restrictions on daily life with the aim of slowing the spread of the virus.

As a result, employees are facing additional pressures which make mental health support even more vital. It seems clear that we are not going back to the way we were, and employees will need remote support for a long time to come.

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

Experiencing mental health problems is more common than you might think. According to Mind, the mental health charity, 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. However, employees may not wish to talk about it at work for fear of casting doubts on their competence.

Current circumstances make it difficult to pick up on warning signs. With socially distanced workplaces and remote working now the norm, employees may not be getting the informal support from colleagues that they normally would. 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.

Providing help

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.

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.  

Resource library

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.

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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