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#MentalHealthAwarenessWeek: Five tips on how employers can help struggling employees

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

This article is featured as part of our week-long series looking at awareness and practical advice to support the Mental Health of those working across the financial services sector

Adrian Matthews, Employee Benefits Director at MetLife UK, comments: “The world of work has changed dramatically over the course of the last two years, with more organisations implementing work structures that encourage – and embrace – adaptable working. Largescale changes in working habits combined with a backdrop of uncertainty and worry, have sharply impacted mental health and our levels of resilience. Our connection to our community and colleagues has never been more important and is fundamental to good mental health.

“For employers, where possible, embracing hybrid working practices can provide many positives for employees wellbeing. From providing much more flexibility allowing them to balance all aspects of their daily life alongside their work – whether that’s family life, caring responsibilities, or just personal priorities. Hybrid working can also elevate company culture, giving employees and employers the opportunity to connect in person. Collaboration drives innovation, but also personal connection which is so important to enhancing a stronger team dynamic. More importantly, the health and wellbeing of employees can more easily be observed in person and support provided in the moment.

“But as individuals take time to adjust to new working practices, it is vital employers evaluate workplace policies to ensure that staff know who turn to if they’re experiencing feelings of stress, anxiety, and burnout – both professionally and personally. Clearly demonstrating to staff that their health and wellbeing is a priority can reap benefits. Our Re:Me research found that two in five (39%) employees would stay if their employer demonstrated more care for their mental wellbeing. Training mental health first aiders and offering staff a comprehensive benefits package – including financial and emotional support, are just some of the policies that have worked at MetLife and could work for your business too. It’s vital that the value of these must be communicated more in times of heightened uncertainty to ensure staff can easily access the support available should they need to.”

Five tips on how employers can help struggling employees

1. Encourage communication: The pandemic has had a major impact on most people. While some employees will be open about the struggles they are facing, some may feel hesitant. Encouraging open lines of communication and a paternal stance, employers can go a long way in building long term trust with staff as they realise their employer is there for them in the tough times as well as the good. Talking can also reduce the burden significantly and therefore expedite an individual’s recovery so its important leaders are well equipped and have regular check ins with their team.

2. Watch out for employee burnout: Facing into an ever-increasing backdrop of global uncertainty, elongated periods of stress can lead to burnout. Being aware of changes to an employee’s productivity is vital, managers need to be vigilant when monitoring how individuals interact or show signs of disengagement. People can hide behind a computer and be unseen very easily. The typical ‘calling in sick’ stats may reduce, but the reality can be very different. Our recent research found that two in five (44%) admit to calling in sick due to feeling exhausted, stressed, depressed, overwhelmed, and unmotivated.

3. Encourage regular annual leave: Presenteeism can prove challenging as staff feel unable to take annual leave as it simply increases their workload on their return. You may notice some employees cannot switch off from sending emails and working long hours, even when they are on holiday. Helping employees to plan their annual leave throughout the year, can be a small step with a huge benefit. You may also want to consider encouraging a digital detox and mindfulness techniques to encourage better sleep.

4. Remember financial wellbeing: One of the ways employers can help to alleviate some concern is by highlighting the financial support available to employees in addition to promoting tools that give practical information on managing daily budgets and savings. As we find ourselves seeing the daily cost of living rise, many are forced to reassess their finances which can quickly elevate financial anxiety. Initiating dialogue around financial wellbeing will assist with breaking down the taboos and providing practical tips to improve financial resilience rather than allowing staff to feel overwhelmed and potentially allowing a difficult financial period to worsen.

5. Support their overall well-being: Traditional benefits – such as retirement, medical, and dental insurance – provide a safety net for employees. But as the world changes and new ways of working accelerate, this is altering what employees want from their employers. Our Re:Me research shows that 71% of employees feel that companies have a social responsibility to their working, including an increased role in their welfare, wellbeing, and overall happiness. The flexibility of hybrid working enables employees to achieve a better work/life balance as they are able to unwind more easily from the comforts of their home and devote more time to activities outside of work rather than commuting. Also, highlighting ways in which staff can engage in volunteering opportunities and get involved in sustainability initiatives can be very rewarding at a time when it can be difficult to make sense of the global uncertainty. These can create a sense of giving back and feelings of gratitude and make a real difference to the local community.

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