During Mental Health Awareness Week, many employers will have concentrated on employee wellbeing and mental health, through communications, events and initiatives around this year’s theme of ‘loneliness’, focusing on building meaningful connections, including among colleagues. Now that Mental Health Awareness Week is over, it’s a good moment to take stock and consider how to continue to prioritise employee wellbeing over the rest of the year.
Many Make UK members have told us that they are concerned about the prevalence of employee mental health and wellbeing issues. The reasons for this are complex, individual and multi-faceted, but it seems that the legacy of the pandemic may be a contributing factor – whether due to bereavement, pre-existing mental health conditions exacerbated by lockdowns, long covid, or home and hybrid working. Indeed, data published by the Health and Safety Executive in December 2021, identified that over half of those suffering from work-related stress, anxiety or depression over the 12 month period to March 2021 reported that their condition was either caused or made worse by the effects of the pandemic. In addition, there are concerns that continuing external stresses such as the cost of living crisis will result in more employees struggling with their mental health.
One way in which employers can help is to continue with Mental Health Awareness Week’s proactive approach to employee wellbeing and mental health and make some features of the week a more regular event. For example, if you ran a ‘tea and talk’ event for employees last week, encouraging them to take an hour away from their desks to come together and just have a chat over tea and cake that you provided, why not make that a monthly thing? Or if you brought in counsellors or financial advisers to offer free drop-in sessions last week, could you consider running such sessions more regularly? Initiatives like this, as part of a well-designed wellbeing strategy, can significantly increase employee wellbeing, as well as help to reduce employee sickness absence and the costs associated with it. Some wellbeing initiatives can also support employers in complying with their legal obligations, e.g. in relation to health and safety, or making reasonable adjustments for disabled employees. In addition, targeted wellbeing measures can improve employee engagement – and being known as an employer that invests in employee wellbeing can help to attract new talent.
As well as implementing wellbeing strategies, of course, employers need to continue manage employees with mental health conditions – both those who are in work and those who are off sick. Following on from Mental Health Awareness Week, now would be a good moment to consider whether your current approach to supporting employees’ mental health is still fit for purpose. Has the pandemic shifted the goalposts when managing employees with mental health conditions? What are the advantages and disadvantages of home and hybrid working in relation to mental health in general, and are these changing over time? Following the pandemic, do you need to alter your approach to managing adjustments and phased returns to work? Will your approach for your on-site workforce differ from your approach for those who can work at home some or all of the time, and does this matter?
How we can help
We are running an in-person seminar - Managing employee health: spotlight on tricky issues post-pandemic, which looks at ways of managing employee mental health and employee wellbeing as we emerge from the pandemic. It will also cover other difficult issues such as the effect of past Covid-19 related absence on managing other sickness absence going forwards, how to handle ongoing Covid-19 related absence, the impact of home and hybrid working on employee health in general and whether you need to rethink your approach to absence management as we live with Covid-19. This seminar is suitable for HR professionals and senior managers.Click here to find out more information and to book.
Click here to find out about the many other ways in which Make UK can support your business with your approach to health and wellbeing. Make UK members can also speak to their regular adviser for further guidance. If you are not a member, our expert HR and legal advisers can offer guidance on a consultancy basis. For further information, contact us on 0808 168 5874 or email [email protected].