Why mental health support shouldn't be an employee benefit

According to Mercer's 2021 Health on Demand Report, which surveyed 14,000 employees across the globe, 1 in 2 employees rate mental health support as extremely or very important, and 42% of employees with access to mental health benefits say they're more likely to stay at their job than if they didn't have them.

Now, in a time when The Great Resignation shows no signs of slowing, investing in mental health support for your staff will not only improve employee wellbeing, productivity, motivation and reduce absence, but it may also be the difference between keeping or losing your top talent. However, employers must come to terms with the fact that investing in employees' mental health is no longer a perk or benefit; it should be as normal a part of an employment package as the salary.

The same survey also found that 44% of employees, who didn't have access to mental health support, felt unsupported by their employer. And it is well known that employees who do not feel supported are often less motivated, less productive and more likely to look for an employer that values them.

But why now?

For many employers, it seems as though mental health is the latest buzzword; however, it really is nothing new. Back in prehistoric times, anxiety was actually necessary. How would you know to run from that T-Rex without your fight or flight instinct kicking in? However, the majority of us aren't regularly being chased down by prehistoric creatures, yet that part of the brain remains as active as ever. So why now are we hearing so much about it?

Well, it's common knowledge that for a long time, there has been an ongoing stigma around mental health issues and asking for help, particularly in the workplace. Employees have been worried they will be seen as "less able" to do their jobs or that they might risk being managed out of the business. Obviously, these thoughts then further contribute to feelings of anxiety and depression. But, if there was any slither of good to come out of the last 2 years of a global pandemic, it's that it helped start to break down the stigma.

So many of us were thrust into unfamiliar working and living situations, and it took its toll on our mental health. With so many people suffering at one time, it has started to become normal to speak up and ask for help. It became apparent that employers have a responsibility to their employees to support their wellbeing, especially if they want to retain their top talent.

So what can you do?

Well, the good news is, if you haven't already invested in mental health support. There's still time, and plenty of businesses have been through the ups and downs of getting it right.

Firstly, it starts with your employees and finding out what they want and need. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, which is precisely why employee assistance programmes have previously not been effective. They did not meet the individual needs of the people who needed it most. So, start with open, safe and honest communication. Whether you do this face-to-face or through an anonymous survey, it's vital you understand the breadth of support wanted.

Secondly, consider individual and group training that could be helpful. For instance, you could implement Mental Health First Aiders, so employees have a dedicated person to approach if they feel they need someone to talk to. Or, group training such as emotional wellbeing, mindfulness or mental health awareness could help people open up about their own experience as well as learn potential warning signs that a colleague is struggling.

Other activities you could think about are:

  • Morning meditation sessions via zoom

  • Lunchtime mindfulness sessions

  • A quiet sensory room where people can go to take a break

  • Make lunch breaks away from desks mandatory

  • Peer support groups that meet weekly

The possibilities are endless and don't need to be grand, expensive gestures. Often, the smallest changes have the most impact.

Hopefully, you have found this helpful and have some ideas to improve mental health support in your business. If you are interested in training for employees at Supportive Solutions, we can help with:

  • Mental Health First Aid

  • Mental Health Awareness

  • Post Incident Stress Debrief

  • Emotional Intelligence

  • Mindfulness

  • Conflict Management

  • Stress Management and Psychological First Aid

  • Coaching and Mentoring

  • Understanding and Developing Resilience

Please feel free to contact us to find out more and discuss your training needs.

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