Written by Adrian Matthews, Head of Employee Benefits at MetLife UK
An estimated one in six adults have experienced a common mental disorder such as depression or anxiety in the last week. Whilst it’s common for people to feel a bit worried and anxious it can spiral and impact their mental health, particularly as life can often feel challenging.
We all have lots of commitments we manage every day from home life and work, but when these change, they can bring worry and added stress. For example, unexpected challenges with looking after loved ones and/or children, work, managing finances, health issues, just to name a few. And all this whilst trying to navigate a changing external environment is certainly not helping. Feeling anxious can impact people’s daily lives at home and at work.
In fact, work-related stress, anxiety, and burnout is costing the UK economy £28bn* per year. With so many experiencing mental health conditions, it is important employers are equipped with the right policies and benefits to support their employees.
Mental Health Awareness Week (15th – 21st of May) serves as a reminder and an opportunity to discuss the importance of mental health, how to support yourself, loved ones, friends and colleagues, and to find out how we can create a society that prevents mental health problems from developing.
Here, Adrian Matthews, Head of Employee Benefits at MetLife UK, shares his three top tips for helping employers relieve symptoms of stress and anxiety that could be experienced by their employees:
1. The value of Employee Assistance Programmes: Providing the right benefits package is essential to attract and retain an engaged workforce and will make sure employees know they are fully supported – in and out of the workplace.
A business is only as strong as its people. Investing in these policies, as well as implementing them into the work culture will help avoid stress and anxiety becoming a larger problem for the employee down the line and reduce the need for long absence or sick leave.
Employers should offer 24/7 access to an employee assistance programme (EAP) which is designed to help employees with their work, health, and wellbeing. This can range from counselling to financial wellbeing support. MetLife offers employees a virtual Wellbeing Hub that effectively engages employees through financial, mental and physical wellbeing be that through childcare support and confidential counselling or by supporting an employee through financial difficulty.
2. Communicate, communicate, communicate: Having valuable and tangible benefits in place is the first step, but communicating them is a very important second step. Only when communicated do individuals know what support is available to them, and in some instances their family too, and crucially, how to access it. Ongoing communication of all the support resources available, including any health and wellbeing benefits, is critical to creating a strong support framework. Although many employers showcase these benefits during the recruitment process, there must be a system in place to help reiterate this program to all employees, particularly to accommodate hybrid working patterns.
Employers can use company meetings or quarterly business updates to remind and encourage employees to explore the support available to them. This will ensure engagement is consistent throughout the year and employees feel there are a range of options to suit their personal needs. As an employer it is easy to look introspectively and focus solely on how a company can continue to implement as well as communicate the benefits and support available. However, what is happening outside of the workplace should be equally as important for employers to keep a happy and motivated workforce. For example, introducing a monthly company email or posting links on a social channel that include external resources and guides are great options to include. A case study on how a member of staff has benefitted from the support in place can be very powerful to engage staff.
3. The new age of hybrid working: Since the pandemic, companies globally have had to adjust working patterns for employees to support a more hybrid approach. As this experimentation and period of adjustment continues, it is clear that employees today have changing expectations of the relationship between life and work.
Our research shows that when a workplace implements benefits that foster this fusion of work and life, more than three-quarters of employees feel more productive and engaged on the job. Moreover, when employees are free to tend to their needs outside of work through benefits such as remote working, 72% report feeling a greater sense of trust from their employer3. This sense of freedom for employees can hugely benefit their mental health and wellbeing as they manage their wider responsibilities with the added flexibility hybrid working brings. With no commute one to four days a week, employees find they have more leisure time which can lead to higher motivation and less burnout, so it’s important employers encourage a clear delineation between work and home.
Unlocking the full potential of today’s employees means finding the best way to balance the evolving needs of individuals with the needs of the business, to ensure optimum performance.