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Taking charge of employee mental health support

1st Sep 2021
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We are through the worst of the pandemic, but compassionate employers are now thinking about how they can support their workers through the recovery stage.

With many people feeling anxious about the world re-opening, now is the time for HR leaders to review what mental health support they offer and how employees are accessing it. The intense pressure employees have been under means services must be delivered wherever and whenever people need them.

The hidden epidemic

Even pre-Covid, work-related stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 44% of work-related ill health and 54% of working days lost.

Struggles with physical and mental health are not new, but there is a deeply embedded culture in society of people not wanting to talk openly at work for fear of casting doubts on their competence. Employees often put on a brave face during work hours, so it’s hard to gauge how illness is hindering their performance.

The estimated cost of depression and anxiety to the global economy is US$ 1 trillion per year, according to the World Health Organisation. Just because people aren’t comfortable talking about it, doesn’t mean it’s not affecting your business.

Providing the right support

With this in mind, some employees may prefer to access confidential support - ideally through their own device, in the privacy of their home or anywhere they feel secure. Thankfully, social distancing has accelerated the rise of mental health services delivered remotely and this shows no sign of slowing down.

So, what services can you provide to support workers wherever and whenever it’s needed?

Employee Assistance Programmes: EAP services provide confidential phone lines and/or virtual counselling which employees can call 24/7. Individuals can speak to speak with a trained advisor and get actionable advice on a huge range of complex issues. This is an incredibly valuable service that employees can access in privacy, at no cost to them. 

Resource libraries: Companies can make a range of information and resources available to help guide people through difficult periods in their life. With so much health advice out there it’s useful for employees to have everything centred from one trusted source. They will feel more confident knowing it has been fact-checked.

Online GP appointments: Employees may be suffering from conditions which are not obvious 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. GPs can provide clarity on the situation and information on treatment options which helps the employee feel more in control. 

Mental health apps: These provide a convenient way for employees to manage common mental health conditions like anxiety and stress. Apps provide simple exercises, tools and techniques that match individual mental health needs. As they can be accessed by the employee anytime, they help build long-term mental resilience.

Effective mental health strategies will also consider social, financial, and physical factors, as these are all linked. Companies which look after the whole person will provide the best possible environment for people to thrive during the pandemic recovery stage, and beyond.


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