How Employee Benefits Can Impact Mental Health

Posted in Employee Benefits and Wellbeing, Annual Leave, Financial Wellbeing, Health and Wellbeing, Mental Wellbeing, Cycle to Work

by James Malia on May 24, 2017 2:00:00 PM

Don't let mental health stay out of sight, or out of mind

There’s still some stigma in the workplace when it comes to mental health, with research from Bupa finding 47% of business leaders report they feel like they tread on eggshells around staff who have experienced a mental health condition.

With 77% of employees having experienced poor mental health symptoms at some point in their lives, more needs to be done by employers to support their staff’s health and wellbeing. To help you prepare, we look at the ways using your employee benefits can help support your team during difficult times.

Be flexible

Workers who are experiencing poor mental health need to be supported, not shunned. One in five employees who experienced a mental health condition while working have felt under pressure to resign. So what can you do to reduce pressure from your worker while still helping the business? It’s simple really – make their work more flexible.

Flexitime working allows employees to fit work around their schedules in a way that works for them, which can be a big help for those who are experiencing mental health issues – as they don’t feel as pressured to fit all their tasks in the traditional working hours.

If your business doesn’t require a constant office presence, then some time out of the working environment can be a positive step. Allowing staff to work from home can chip away at the little things that contribute to staff worries and concerns, such as hectic commutes and costs to get to work, how they think other employees will behave towards them, and anxieties about their output or attitude being judged.

A survey of 1,000 employees in the UK found that an incredible 700 of them wanted their employers to offer flexible working, proving it’s an option wanted by the majority of staff, not just those who are suffering from poor mental health.

It’s not just staff who think a bit of give to the working schedule can be a good idea – organisations do as well. 59% of businesses believe that flexible working is an effective tool for managing absences, with 56% already using this approach to managing long-term absences.

Flexible working certainly has its benefits, but it comes down to everyone’s circumstances, and whether their requests are reasonable. If you know employees who are suffering from poor mental health, then this might be a way to help them.

If your personnel need time off, then another option to consider is offering annual leave purchase in your employee benefits scheme. This allows staff to give up part of their salary in return for extra time off. It’s a great opportunity to help staff experiencing poor mental health take time to get the support they need, spend time with their family, or reflect and manage the stresses of work outside of the office. A bit of extra time off can boost morale, increase productivity and can even reduce absenteeism.

Annual leave purchase is good for businesses too if employees opt in, as it means reduced salaries and less national insurance to pay at the end of the month, and gives staff extra holiday with reduced net pay impact.

Free ebook: The Essential Guide to Staff Health and Wellbeing  Every employer wants to take care of their staff - or, at least, they should!  Our ebook covers the basics, and a little bit more besides.

Help with their lifestyle

Employee benefits can also support staff who are experiencing mental health issues by encouraging them to make changes to their lifestyle that help with their wellbeing. Getting out of the office and exercising has shown to have positive health benefits.

One of the ways you can help is by promoting physical exercise, which has shown to be as effective as psychological or pharmaceutical treatments for depression symptoms. Employers can support the initiative to get people on their bikes by offering cycle to work schemes as part of their employee benefits package.

Cycle to work schemes remain an incredibly popular benefit as they help staff afford a bike for commuting via a salary sacrifice arrangement, which spreads the costs over a longer period in monthly payments and provides the employee with tax and NI savings. Employers also save Employer's NI too.

As well as helping with depression symptoms, cycling can help with absences too. Cycling UK’s study into health and cycling found people who cycle to work regularly take, on average, less sick days per year, saving UK employers an annual sum of around £83 million.

Other popular employee benefits that involve exercise are gym memberships, which some businesses make available to their staff. Exercise such as working out at the gym can have a positive impact on stress levels, with research finding employed adults who are more active tend to have lower stress rates, compared to those who aren’t as active.

Find out if staff are interested in having options such as these available to them because, if so, these can be relatively easy schemes to set up, with immediate benefits.

Support financial wellbeing

Employers also need to support staff with their financial wellbeing, as many are affected by cash concerns. Citizens Advice’s revealed that 74% of people with debt worries found it had affected their mental health, while the Financial Conduct Authority revealed there has been a 50% increase in the number of staff struggling financially in the last 10 years.

Offering discounts to help with employees’ financial wellbeing can have a big impact on mental health. One in four UK employees say money worries affect their productivity, according to research from CIPD, so employers who can offer savings wherever possible through their employee benefits scheme can help massively.

Mind, the mental health charity say there is often a link between money and mental health as “poor mental health can make managing money harder, and worrying about money can make your mental health worse.”

Offer direct mental health support

Of course, sometimes the most effective way to support the wellbeing of your employees is by helping them to access to mental health services. Including employee assistance programmes within your benefits scheme lets your employees use phone, email and face-to-face counselling services, as well as providing support on resources on a range of topics, including financial and legal advice.

These programmes greatly improve access to services for your employees, helping them to avoid lengthy NHS mental health waiting lists, without the costs of private care.

Employee benefits can provide plenty of solutions to positively impact mental health, but putting something in place that staff might not want is not the answer. Talking to staff to understand what they would like to help them is a great start, meaning your benefits package can be more tailored to your employees’ needs.

Free ebook: The Essential Guide to Staff Health and Wellbeing  Every employer wants to take care of their staff - or, at least, they should!  Our ebook covers the basics, and a little bit more besides.

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