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The importance of providing mental health support for staff  

Mental health has dominated the headlines since the pandemic began. Uncertainty, anxiety and loss have affected many of us over the last 20 months and resulted in an increase in demand for mental health supports and services.

This experience has been no different for global workforces, many of whom shifted to remote working overnight and are now navigating a new hybrid model of working which is being interrupted by further restrictions as new variants emerge.  

According to multi-market research we recently carried out with Ipsos MRBI, employers have more to do when it comes to supporting their staff’s mental fitness.

Just two in five employees feel that the resources provided by their employer during the pandemic have been sufficient to support their mental health.  

Support for employees' mental health:

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The need for employees to have access to quality services to support their mental fitness and health has never been greater.

Employers have an opportunity to address this and reassure their staff that they will be there for them, through good times and bad. 

Tailored supports for staff 

When it comes to addressing mental health issues there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

Every workforce is made up of individual employees that have different levels of comfort when it comes to accessing and using different resources.

Employers need to consider the diverse nature of their specific workforce. Factors such as access to private space in their homes and familiarity with using apps and digital services all play a part in how employees view and use the resources offered to them. 

According to our research, the top five supports most valued by employees are:  

  1. Information 

  2. Digital team get togethers 

  3. Counselling services 

  4. Extra time/days off  

  5. Classes 

By providing a menu of options for staff when it comes to supporting their mental fitness, both in person and online, employers can be sure to connect with staff from all demographics and meet various accessibility issues.  

Lead by example  

Our research indicated that most individuals are more comfortable talking to family and friends about their mental health than their employer.

Only one in 10 respondents feel comfortable talking to their employer, as opposed to six in 10 comfortable speaking to family. This may be because staff fear negative repercussions if they open up about their mental health struggles to their employer.

So there is a responsibility for employers to lead by example and normalise conversations around mental health in the workplace.

By having open and honest communication from the top down, employees can feel safe to share their own experiences without it impacting their career. 

Greater awareness of the services available through employee assistance programmes (EAPs), like counselling, is also needed.

We witnessed an extremely low uptake of EAP services during the pandemic, which is surprising given the pressure people have been under during that time.

Staff need to be reassured that this is a completely confidential and free service that is there to help them through both physical and mental challenges and EAP contact details need to be easy to find and frequently communicated. Staff may also need further information and education around the different life scenarios where counselling can help. 

The past 24 months has brought about an unprecedented amount of change to the personal and professional lives of people across the world and the conversation around mental health has, thankfully, been front and centre.

There has never been a better time than now for employers to step up and support their employees through all of life’s ups and downs.  

Michael Markwell is HRD at Allianz Partners, Health