There is no denying that poor mental health is one of the biggest issues facing employers today. Modern workforces face a variety of new challenges from ‘always-on’ cultures and fast-paced lifestyles to worries about Brexit and being replaced by newtechnologies. All of these stresses and strains can lead to sickness absence, increased staff turnover and low morale and productivity.
Each year, employee absence costs UK businesses more than £12.7 billion. Overall, one in five employers state that their average member of staff calls in sick for more than a week per year. Of these sick days, 39% are due to mental health problems.
The emotional state of employees is just as important as physical health in terms of workforce wellbeing. But as stress and depression are invisible illnesses that are often misunderstood, mental wellbeing has taken a backseat. Even Prime Minister, Theresa May has highlighted the problem. Calling for a review of mental health in the workplace, she stated that “there is no escaping the fact that people with mental health problems are still not treated the same as if they have a physical ailment.”
If you take a closer look at the figures you can see that there is cause for concern. It’s estimated that the number of workers receiving mental health treatment has increased by 53% over the last decade while a report by the Health and Safety Executive states that 11.7 million working days were lost in the UK due to work-related stress, depression and anxiety in 2015/16. Nearly half of the cases were new, and on average, 23.9 days were lost per case, showing that poor mental health can lead to prolonged periods of absence.
How can you look after the mental health of your employees?
With as many as one in six adults experiencing a common mental health problem, you can make a positive difference by having a clear strategy in place that addresses mental wellbeing and provides access to the right resources at the right time. You can support your employees in many ways and by implementing a Health Cash Plan you can help to keep them happy in mind, body and pocket.
Of course, you can’t change your culture overnight — but you can start by raising the awareness of mental health in your workplace. You can also promote open communications, so your employees know that you’re on their side and are always willing to listen to their frustrations and help them whenever they feel stressed. With one in five people taking a day off work due to stress, these small measures can make a big difference. It’s also good practice to provide your managers with specialist training to help them spot the early warning signs and nip potential issues in the bud.
Good methods of preventing burnout include encouraging your employees to take their full holiday entitlement and promoting ‘mindfulness’, where people take a few minutes out each day to clear their minds and focus on what’s important. Another effective measure you can take is to implement a Health Cash Plan that offers a wide range of health benefits as well as prevention and intervention services to help employees overcome problems at the earliest point.
For example, Employee Assistance Programmes provide 24-hour counselling and support helplines, so employees can talk to professionals and British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy accredited counsellors in confidence about stress, health, personal finances, family problems and more. This service makes sure that employees always have someone they can turn to for help and advice — which is very important when many employees won’t talk to their line manager about mental health issues.
Whether you choose a company-paid plan or a voluntary plan, paid by employees through payroll, Health Cash Plans are a simple and affordable way to look after employee wellbeing. The benefits they provide can help to combat the day-to-day stresses of our busy modern lifestyle and support good mental and physical health. Your employees could benefit from such benefits as:
• Face-to-face counselling sessions with trained counsellors, including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
• Virtual GP Surgeries where employees can talk to a qualified GP any time of the day or night about their health worries
• Cashback for alternative therapies that can ease pain and help employees relax, including acupuncture, Indian head massages and sports and remedial massages
• Physio Triage where employees can talk to certified physios over the phone for a diagnosis, treatment plan and referral to a physiotherapist
• Cashback for dental, optical and physiotherapy costs
Another way to look after the long-term health of your employees and show how much you value their mental and physical wellbeing is by providing health checks at your workplace. These screening services can detect serious health problems at an early stage, so employees can access treatment. Every employee receives individual results and lifestyle advice that can help them prevent or manage a broad range of health conditions, including stress, diabetes and high blood pressure.
Your team may look to be in tip-top shape at the moment in terms of wellbeing, but you never know what’s around the corner. Mental illnesses can be caused by a variety of issues from stress at work and the loss of a loved one to debt problems and relationship difficulties. As well as having a huge impact on the lives of employees, poor mental health can have severe repercussions for employers with low productivity and increased absence and staff turnover.
However, by raising awareness and introducing services that will provide your employees with early assistance, support and intervention when they need it the most, you can save money, reduce sickness absence and improve employee engagement, morale and retention. After all, having a happy, healthy and productive workforce is in everyone’s best interest.
Want to find out how a Health Cash Plan and our Workplace Health Screening can help you to improve mental health and wellbeing in your workplace? Visit www.healthshield.co.uk/employers
Employee Benefits/Health Shield Healthcare Research 2017
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