Why is mental health taking centre stage this year?
Over the past year, mental health has catapulted up the political and public agenda. It was a key topic in the run-up to the general election, when parties from across the political spectrum addressed the issue in their manifestos. Since then we have seen some positive action from the UK Government, including last month’s announcement that more than 100,000 teenagers will be given mental health training to help them deal with the pressures of exam stress. But school room stress is not the only mental health challenge that the UK is grappling with: more than 11 million working days were lost due to stress in 2015/16.
Why is this? Where are employers falling short?
Part of the problem lies in employers’ struggle to evolve their benefits schemes to meet the shifting needs of today’s employees. Our research found a significant disconnect between the support employers are offering employees, and that which employees actually want – particularly in areas affecting their wellness.
Take mental health for example. Almost 40% of employees say that improving their mental wellbeing is a life goal, yet just 18% feel that their benefits scheme supports this. Meanwhile almost half (44%) of the workforce wants to get fit and healthy, yet only 20% think that their employer is helping them to fulfil this ambition.
For those employers who get wellbeing right, the picture is far rosier. Employees who say that their benefits needs are met receive 76% more wellbeing initiatives and have 58% more life goals supported. This means they are twice as likely to recommend their employer to a friend; say they have a positive experience at work and be proud to work for their company. The message for employers is clear. Get your wellbeing benefits right, and you’ll reap rewards in employee engagement, attraction and retention.
So, what can employers do to better support employees’ wellbeing?
Firstly, develop a wellness programme that is fit for purpose. This means taking steps to thoroughly understand employees’ wellbeing wants and needs, and ensuring that these are supported by their benefits scheme. Secondly, communicate employees’ options effectively. Employees will only engage with wellbeing support if they know it’s there, so employers need to consider whether their employees will read a text, pick-up a flyer – or even prefer a one-to-one chat. Finally, employers need to think about how they can encourage benefits take-up by providing a positive user experience. Mobile-first, consumer-friendly software is critical for engaging employees in their schemes and improving their overall perception of their employer.
In short, employers cannot afford to sit around and wait for legislation to direct how they look after employees’ wellbeing. The above steps are simple, and if taken, can have a dramatic impact on how employees feel and work, and ultimately how they perform.