Mental health costs employers in the UK nearly £35 billion a year – yet there are relatively simple and cost-effective solutions to start tackling it, already available at HR professionals’ fingertips. The Health Insurance Group highlights five key areas to help HR get on top of the mental health agenda in the workplace.
1. Dust off exit interviews
Despite being conducted with the best of intentions, exit interviews can sometimes merely act as an opportunity for employees to vent frustrations before leaving an organisation. Data and insights aren’t always properly gleaned, so lessons aren’t always learnt. If it’s not in place already, set up a robust way of capturing exit-interview information – to begin to establish where and how a talent-leak is happening. It could be that a demanding role, working for a difficult manager or operating in a bullying culture, could all be stressful scenarios that take their toll on mental health and make talent leave an organisation. By measuring and monitoring data, combining it with other information, such as from sickness and absence rates, the mental health landscape in an organisation can be better understood; then it can be tackled.
2. Don’t make assumptions about generational differences
It may be easy to assume that an older employee, who is going through a divorce whilst juggling child and eldercare for example, may be at risk of struggling with mental health. But research finds that younger people are more likely to be formally diagnosed with a mental health condition (37% of 18 to 29 year olds compared to 29% of people in their 50s).
Just because an employee may appear to be the ‘life and soul of the party’, doesn’t mean they actually feel this way. Mental health doesn’t discriminate, it can affect anyone at any time. So it’s important to make access to support widely available across staff demographics, and this can mean the difference between an employee getting valuable support or continuing to struggle and fly under the radar.
3. Provide training
While providing mental health training comes at a cost, the returns often outweigh the initial investment with an estimated ROI of 6:1. Having managers that are equipped to spot signs of mental ill-health, means they can provide support – helping employees to reach their full potential and stop talent from unnecessarily exiting a company.
When considering that 51% of employees said they would not be comfortable talking to their manager about a mental health issue, it’s clearly an area that HR could benefit from addressing – a little training can go a long way.
Mental health training also contributes to personal development, empowering managers with the skills and knowledge needed to support employees struggling, helping to identify and tackle concerns. It allows managers to create a resilient workforce too, that can better withstand the undulating pressures and strains of working for an organisation. For businesses, mental health training can have a knock-on effect of potentially addressing associated issues of lost productivity and sickness absence as a result of mental ill-health.
4. Maximise benefits
There are multiple benefits available that have stand-alone or added-value features that can support mental health in the workplace. For example, some employers offer mental health support through employee assistance programmes (EAPs), which can help employees in times of need. These can provide confidential telephone or face-to-face counselling for a range of stress-inducing issues, from debt support to relationship problems with colleagues.
Whether highlighting an existing benefit or announcing new initiatives to support mental health, effective communication is crucial in ensuring uptake. Using a combination of methods, such as emails, posters or intranet, can all help to raise awareness of the benefits on offer that support mental health and it lets employees know they work in a supportive culture.
5. Focus on prevention
As the proverb goes, ‘prevention is better than cure’. There are excellent tools available on the market to help employees manage mental health daily, as opposed to seeking help once an issue has escalated. Company-sponsored mental health apps can engage employees in gamified activities, that are underpinned by established techniques such as cognitive behavioural therapy and endorsed by the NHS, to help users navigate daily pressures.
When considering that British men are 300% more likely to confide in AI than another person about life, love and their mental wellbeing – apps could play an integral role in managing mental health in the workplace.
Brett Hill, managing director at The Health Insurance Group, comments:
“With a sixth of the working age population having a mental health condition at any one time, tackling mental health in the workplace is at the forefront of many business agendas. However, these needn’t be costly exercises. HR may already be sitting on a wealth of data that can be analysed to reveal the true mental health landscape in their organisation. Reviewing existing benefits that support mental health can also aid engagement. With so many interventions available, from impactful managerial training to apps that support employees daily, there are plenty of options available to help organisations best support the mental wellbeing of their staff. We would urge employers to regularly review the effectiveness of any mental health support, and, most importantly, to communicate the support to their staff.”