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HR spends a third of time on mental health support for employees

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HR managers now spend an average of almost a third (31%) of their time each month on mental health support for employees than before the pandemic.

Yet two in five (43%) companies in a survey for health care provider Koa Health said mental health is not a cultural priority despite an increase in employee demand for mental health support.

It found employees wre asking employers for more mental health support  than ever, with over half (56%) of UK organisations having reported an increase in requests in the last 12 months.

Content shared online about people’s declining mental health  increased by a shocking 400% from February 2020 to May 2020.

However, HR is not convinced mental health and wellbeing is firmly embedded into business culture yet.

Over half (51%) of companies with a £100 million turnover or higher, said mental health is not a cultural priority in their business.

Nicola Tope, HR director at photography provider iStock, said it is very important HR teams normalise discussing mental health.

She told HR magazine: “Our HR team have encouraged leaders to be open about their own care so that employees are more comfortable or at least less self-conscious when they need to ask for support for themselves.

“This is also bolstered by the robust mental health benefits we provide and a multi-layered approach to educating employees and managers about the importance of taking care, whether that’s through webinars, our communications channels or 1:1 coaching.” 

Tope said open discussions around mental health and care implementation should be at the top of HR’s agenda as the pandemic continues.

“Initiatives such as meeting-free days and flexible working policies will give employees the support they need to continue to work and collaborate effectively,” she said.

The pandemic appears to have pushed the mental health agenda in the right direction though.

In response to added demand from employees 72% of UK companies increased the level of mental health support since COVID-19.

Over the next year, two thirds (66%) also plan to increase the level of mental health support they provide.

Oliver Harrison, CEO of Koa Health, believes the scale of mental health challenges faced by UK employees has positioned it as the second, silent pandemic of our time.

He told HR magazine: “For many HR managers supporting the mental wellbeing of a dispersed workforce throughout and the pandemic will have been the greatest challenge of their career. 

“Without any notice, they had to scramble support, spending an average of 30% more of their time providing mental health support to team members.”

Looking ahead, Harrison said organisations’ response to the effects of the pandemic recovery will profoundly affect both team members’ mental health and company productivity. 

“That’s why it’s critical that companies act now to move beyond the scramble of 2020 to create a clear recovery plan that embeds mental health as a cultural priority across the business,” he said.

This piece forms part of HR magazine's special bulletin on Mental Health Awareness Week. Sign up to make sure you don't miss any future bulletins.