· Comment

Addressing employee expectations of mental health support

When looking at the Covid pandemic through an HR lens, other than an increased sense of camaraderie, it can be challenging to think of an upside.

Companies lent hard on their HR functions as they looked to support their staff through challenges such as furloughing, long and short-term sickness, death, infection control, the Great Resignation and subsequent recruitment drive.

However, the one area that you could argue has benefitted from Covid is mental health in the workplace, and the role that employers can play in supporting their employees.   

Understanding the spectrum of mental health support needs at work

How HR can make better use of new WHO mental health guidelines

How to handle employee mental health pressures

Recent Wellbeing in the Workplace research, commissioned by SilverCloud, provides real insights into what employees need and want, and what employers feel falls within their remit.

It also shines a light on what we all know instinctively - that mental health problems both our own, and those of close friends and family, affect a person’s ability to perform at their best.

It is encouraging to see in the research that employers are rising to the challenge, with seven in 10 employers laying claim to having increased investment in employee mental health and wellbeing initiatives since the pandemic began. 

That said, the research also showed that nearly three-quarters of employees (72%) want more support, and importantly, the right kind of support, which does not always mirror what is on offer. 

As the interface between the employers and employees, the HR team is no doubt aware that staff’s mental health is more fragile than it was pre-pandemic, and the new research provides some quite stark data as to the extent of this fragility. 

With nearly half (46%) of employees admitting that their mental health had worsened since Covid. Feeling stressed has become a daily occurrence for one in seven employees, with one in five feeling unable to cope. In fact, during the last six months, over a third said that they had felt depressed. 

We can see the shift too when looking at employee benefit packages which increasingly include wellbeing elements designed to support good physical and mental health. Packages built to retain employees, reduce staff churn and attract new talent. 

The top three wellbeing benefits employers offer proved to be counselling (49%), hybrid working support (48%), and mindfulness training (47%). 

Interestingly, other than counselling (34%) there is some disparity between what is on offer and what employees say they want, namely duvet days (49%) and gym membership (38%).

Organisations need to really understand what their people need, and their pain points, in order to make informed decisions about what solutions they include in their wellbeing offering.

The majority (80%) of company directors agreed that people are their company’s most valuable asset.

In addition to offering a suite of benefits and making mental health a board level priority it is critical organisations consider how they embed mental health into the end-to-end employee experience.

For example, organisations need to consider how they evolve ways of working, the nature of the work itself, the company culture and even line-management and in doing so, firmly bake mental health into the heart of a company’s very being.