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An HR team strategy guide for the employee mental health revolution

Although we’re in the middle of a mental health crisis at the workplace, you may be surprised to find that the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t the sole cause of employee burnout and chronic stress. Instead, it has only accelerated the rising depression rate, which has been widespread since 2019, well before the pandemic. From the increased health care costs to your overall company performance, there are plenty of reasons to take care of your staff’s mental health. Read on to learn from Pacific Prime UK’s guide on how to create an effective HR team strategy for the employee mental health revolution.

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Reasons to care about your employees’ mental health

Directly and indirectly, mental health issues are costing companies a fortune. In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) recognized employee burnout as a medical condition caused by chronic workplace stress. Here in the UK, the Equality Act 2010 protects workers plagued by mental health issues under the disability discrimination protections. Simply put, their mental health condition is to be treated as a disability at the workplace. Below are two more reasons you should take your employees’ mental health seriously in this employee mental health revolution.

Mental health issues are costing your company

On one hand, healthcare costs have increased with more doctor visits. When it comes to work performance, you see a rise in turnover, absenteeism, as well as diminished productivity. Even for workers who show up, presenteeism (being physically at work but not at full productivity) is a huge problem for employers.

Mental health and physical health are closely connected

Depression and stress are a predictor for other costly physical illnesses. Mental illness treatments are not the only expenses you have to worry about. There are also a host of associated health problems. Mentally ill employees are at a high risk of developing chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, and musculoskeletal problems. All of these require lengthy, extensive treatments, and even frequent days off from work.

8 ways to ensure your HR team strategy supports the employee mental health revolution

Current mental health benefits fall short. Based on a Deloitte study conducted in the UK, nearly 50% of HR managers believed that basic mental health training would be useful. However, the reality is that only 22% received this training. Here is a list of key actions you can take right now to improve your workers’ mental health and boost their productivity. On a bit of a tight budget? Check out these affordable employee benefits for small businesses, and several ways to make the workplace more inclusive.

1. Measure your employees’ mental health state

Don’t worry, you are far from the only one. You will be joining a plethora of companies in keeping track of your workers’ stress levels. According to an earlier survey by Willis Towers Watson, the number of employers forecasted to be doing this is expected to increase from 16% to 53% by 2021.

This 12-item general-health questionnaire developed in 1970 is a reliable way for businesses to catch any current mental health issues. You can also measure your employees’ progress and compare it to other populations. Available in multiple languages, your workers are free to fill out the survey in a language they are most comfortable with.

2. Prioritize mental wellness in this employee mental health revolution

Leaders in your organization are in a prime position to drive mental health awareness. Talking openly about your personal experience with mental health will help destigmatize it. At the same time, let your workers know that the company provides support on this issue. Don’t forget to back this up with actions, however. Set up accessible mental health support and remember to market it.

3. Set team and personal goals for mental health

Create wellbeing plans with your teams with a focus on mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health. Set both team goals and personal goals to be reviewed at a later time to track your progress.

To set an example, leaders should also share the goals they are currently working on. If your employees don’t feel comfortable with sharing, an anonymous survey is a good alternative.

4. Explore a range of new services, including online interventions

The pandemic has certainly sped up our use of telemedicine. Naturally, more employers are turning to wellness apps as well. Already, some are providing subsidized or even fully covered digital mental health app solutions.

Several apps you could offer to your workforce include Calm and Headspace, which help with meditation and sleep. Talkspace, BetterHelp, and more also afford them easy access to a trained therapist. To learn more about telemedicine, mental health, and many other trends, check out our latest Global Employee Benefits Trends Report 2020.

5. Work closely with your employee benefits specialist to ensure your workforce has adequate mental health coverage

Healthy, happy, and productive employees are a force to be reckoned with. Make sure you let your insurer/broker know that investing in mental health is the key to your business’ success. Then, confirm that mental health support is accessible through your company’s provider networks. Go a step further by ensuring that the out-of-pocket costs confronted by your employees are reasonable.

7. Reach out to your employees through multiple communication channels

What good is an employee benefits (EB) program if your staff are unaware of how it works? Tell them about the therapists available to them in your provider network, that wellness seminar on Friday, and more through various communication channels. Company email, intranet, text messages and posters are just a few ways you could reach out to them.

8. Market “day-off” for mental health

Your workers may be tempted to save up their annual leaves until a major holiday arrives. Let them know that it is perfectly okay and encouraged to take days off to recharge when the need arises.

Improve productivity and staff retention in the employee mental health revolution

Looking to incorporate mental health benefits to your EB program? As an employee benefits broker in the UK, Pacific Prime UK can help. We leverage our close relationships with top insurers to offer you an attractive EB plan that satisfies the unique needs of your workforce. What’s more, get access to our state-of-the-art online EB portal that makes claim management a breeze.

Contact us now for a free consultation with our team of experienced EB specialists!

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Senior Content Creator at Pacific Prime United Kingdom
Serena Fung is a Senior Content Creator at Pacific Prime, a global insurance brokerage and employee specialist serving over 1.5 million clients in 15 offices across the world. With 2+ years of experience writing about the subject, she aims to demystify the world of insurance for readers with the latest updates, guides and articles on the blog.

Serena earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of British Columbia, Canada. As such, she is an avid advocate of mental health and is fascinated by all things psychology (especially if it’s cognitive psychology!).

Her previous work experience includes teaching toddlers to read, writing for a travel/wellness online magazine, and then a business news blog. These combined experiences give her the skills and insights she needs to explain complex ideas in a succinct way. Being the daughter of an immigrant and a traveler herself, she is passionate about educating expats and digital nomads on travel and international health insurance.