As 2021 draws to a close and businesses are looking forward to the new year, they are beginning to investigate and implement extended employee benefits, especially those aimed at mental health. As the Pandemic continues and restrictions are tightening with the new Omicron variant, employees are feeling burnt out, anxious and unsettled once again. It appears the end is not in sight unfortunately. With rapid rising cases and things looking dire again, the government has once again urged people to work from home where possible, and as we’ve seen before, that brings its own struggles and complexities on many levels.
Covid-19 and all that it has caused has created so much stress, new fears and anxieties, where many people’s mental health has been impacted. Be it about catching the virus, health issues, losing a loved one, fears about finances and what will happen to jobs and the future way of working.
With this in mind, many employers are ramping up their mental health and other benefits to provide as much support as possible for their employees who have been impacted by COVID-19, now and before. Whether that’s emotionally, physically, financially, employers are striving to do what they can to support in this very challenging time. More so than before, it is critical to focus on your employees’ overall wellbeing and give them the necessary tools they need to feel better equipped to deal with their individual circumstances to best support them.
Reaching out to a dispersed workforce brings its own dynamic and challenges, different to offering something more holistic for an office based team such as in-house yoga at lunch time. Employers are extending their solutions which can be utilised by employees no matter where they are situated. According to the Mental Health Foundation, 70 million work days are lost each year due to mental health problems in the UK, costing employers approximately £2.4 billion per year. Fortunately more and more businesses are starting to take initiative to introduce means to tackle this subject within the workplace.
1. Private Health Insurance
Many organisations are starting to add Private Health Insurance to their employees benefits package. By having business health insurance in place your employees can quickly access the best expert treatment available, enabling them to return to work at the earliest opportunity. There are many different levels of private insurance, so tailored packages can be introduced for different employees if needs be. Employees will feel looked after, motivated in their roles, and this important benefit can create increased loyalty, especially as employees can access mental health services.
2. Offer an EAP
Companies can show a duty of care to their employees by offering an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). This will give employees access to 24/7 confidential help and advice when they most need it. If employees are experiencing any emotional difficulties this can severely effect their working capacity and can increase absenteeism. Employee morale will be down and this can impact the whole culture like wildfire. An EAP service can include everything from telephone helplines, structured telephone counselling, post trauma support, GP Call back and medical advice, commercial legal advice for HR, online Health Portal, online Health Assessments, online Personal Coaching Tools… to name a few.
3. Wellness initiatives
A longer term solution to tackling mental health, especially during the Pandemic, can be to introduce ongoing healthy benefits and perks for employees. A healthy body often leads to a healthy mind. There are many ways to do this, be it giving the team some time out to focus on themselves, regular Yoga classes online, access to meditation apps, or some local bootcamp classes.
Leaders can encourage their teams to integrate some form of wellness and health slots in between their working schedules. Try encouraging your team to work 9-5, and limit their screen time during the evenings and over the weekend. Working non-stop can often be a distraction from the stresses of daily life, so by offering space for personal wellbeing, this can open up an opportunity for employees to focus on what’s important.
4. Access to Therapeutic Counselling
Many businesses are giving their employees access to therapy and counselling, whether its 10 sessions or X amount per month. This is fundamental during such difficult times, as all of us are struggling in one way or another. Therapy provides a safe space to open up about whatever needs discussing in a safe and confidential environment, where employees do not need to feel like their roles will jeopardised in any way, and they are able to be 100% transparent.
5. Flexibility and extra leave
It is very easy to blur the lines between personal and work times when working at home. It’s easy to take less breaks, you speak to less people and often work extended hours. Offering flexibility to your employees is often one of the most beneficial ways to care for them and their wellbeing, especially while at home and often with children. By allowing flexibility where your team can work around their personal schedules can help reduce any extra stress. Whether you let your employees start later or leave earlier, this can make the world of difference.
In addition, as an employer, you can offer compensation with extra annual leave for mental health days. For example, you could offer 3 mental health days a year where employees can take off without having to explain why they need to the day off, so they have the necessary time and space.