World mental health day was marked on 10th October 2022. The day aims to spread awareness about the significance of mental health and the importance of looking after it. On this day, many organisations will put in place short term events or services to mark the date. However, for mental health provisions to be truly impactful, mental health needs to be a daily priority not an annual event.
With the Covid 19 pandemic swiftly followed by a cost of living crisis, its perhaps not surprising that there has been a steady rise in the collective stress and anxiety levels of the population in general. The cost of living crisis has seen prices for necessities such as energy, food and fuel soar and rising interest rates means repayments on mortgages and loans will also increase. Many employees will be feeling overwhelmed with stress and anxiety around how they will pay their bills each month. Recent studies show that 2 in 5 of the working population consider themselves to have a high mental health risk which is up significantly from the same figures recorded in 2019 pre-Covid and pre-cost of living crisis.
Although things have improved in recent years, people suffering with stress and anxiety often don’t seek support. One of the main barriers to seeking support is the stigma concerning mental health challenges. Normalising conversations around stress, anxiety and mental health generally and providing targeted resources to support mental wellbeing will all help to remove this and make seeking support in this area a more accepted occurrence.
Line managers are often best placed to spot the signs of stress, anxiety or mental health decline in their employees. Providing line manager training in this area will help them to spot the signs, provide support and have sensitive conversations to understand the issues their employees may be facing. However, not everyone feels they can approach their line manager so additionally having trained mental health first aiders or champions in the business can also provide another branch of support.
Employee Assistance Programmes
Providing access to an employee assistance programme (EAP) is a relatively quick win in this area. EAP’s provide confidential support and advice on a whole host of issues including stress, anxiety and mental health concerns, 24 hours a day. Having an EAP in place to support your employees demonstrates a commitment to employee wellbeing and support.
As well as EAP’s there are a host of different apps on the market that promote mental wellbeing with the use of techniques such as mindfulness, meditation and sleep and relaxation aids. Many of these apps are free and have enhanced content available via a subscription. Subsidising a subscription to a wellbeing app could help to support mental wellbeing and reduce the stress and anxiety levels of an employee population at a relatively low cost.
The cost of living crisis will have hit many employees hard and worrying about money can make existing stress and anxiety issues worse. There are many ways a business can support its workforce in this area including cost of living bonuses for those businesses capable of providing this. For those organisations unable to offer this type of assistance, employee discount schemes, interest free loans or offering financial education and training on how to manage one’s finances better are all valuable sources of support.
The benefits if social interaction on mental wellbeing shouldn’t be underestimated. The current cost of living crisis is likely to mean people will socialize less and, after two years of lockdowns caused by the pandemic, this will inevitably lead to a return to feelings of loneliness and isolation for some. Providing opportunities for social interaction on a regular basis will help alleviate some of these feelings and provide some much-needed relief from feelings of isolation.
There is no quick fix when it comes to putting in place a mental wellbeing strategy. The best packages offer a variety of different elements to suit different individuals at different times in their lives. Employers have a legal duty of care to support and look after the health, safety and wellbeing of their workforce. Offering meaningful and impactful support can go a long way to demonstrating the organisation’s commitment in this area and promoting the mental wellbeing and resilience of its workforce.
If your business needs help in this area, HR Overload can help you formulate an effective mental wellbeing strategy for your workforce. Please get in touch to see how we can help.