Simple Steps To Provide Better Employee Mental And Physical Wellbeing Support
When it comes to employee mental and physical health, the duty of care for employers has shifted from risk to prevention, so what can you do to provide better support?
Anna Hayes - 18 February 2021
The COVID pandemic has presented a whole new set of challenges for both businesses and their employees.
Pretty much everyone on the planet has been forced to restrict their normal behaviour. Increased feelings of isolation, a lack of social interaction and significantly reduced physical activity are just a few of the concerning side effects that have emerged from the sudden switch to remote working.
It’s no wonder that employee mental health and wellbeing is becoming a huge concern for business and HR leaders.
The pandemic has demanded employers take a fresh approach to how they support their staff, especially as it's become increasingly challenging for many employees to access health and support services outside of work. Expectations have changed - people are now turning to their employers for help staying fit and healthy.
The duty of care for employers has shifted from putting fires out towards taking preventative steps that stop the fires from starting in the first place. Businesses now need to assess whether they have the appropriate mental health and wellbeing support for employees in place, or risk facing major consequences such as prolonged sickness absence, poor productivity and presenteeism.
Of course there’s plenty of measures that can be put in place, but where do you start? And if you already have support programmes in place, how exactly do you measure engagement?
Here are some simple steps your business can take to start making a difference.
Start by listening to your employees
To determine what a good health and wellbeing strategy looks like, the starting point needs to be a clear understanding of what your employees actually want.
You can’t give your staff the help they need until you listen to the fears and challenges they are facing on a daily basis.
Businesses waste considerable money by offering support and employee benefits that are totally misaligned to what people want or need. You can avoid this by regularly engaging with your staff through surveys or focus groups, then tailoring your support based on the results.
As well as adapting the support provisions that are being put in place, the pandemic has forced leadership teams to review how to get the best out of their workforce. For businesses taking this seriously, the shift of emphasis has gone from performance management towards supportive approaches that are more focused on what staff need.
In this process, leaders themselves have had to work on their own personal competencies, with emphasis on skills such as empathy and listening, to better manage tough situations and relationships with people in the business.
Make your Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) more accessible
Many businesses commonly offer some form of employee assistance programme (EAP), but this isn’t enough on its own. Its value is limited unless employees know what’s available and how to access it.
Multiple studies have shown that EAP average usage is below 10%.
This suggests there’s a worrying gap between the support services being offered and what employees actually need and use.
So how can you make your EAP a success? The starting point is better signposting to it in the first place. Savvy HR leaders in progressive organisations are promoting health and wellbeing support packages with strategies that rival the marketing plans used to attract new clients.
The value in investing in people’s wellbeing pays back in many positive ways for a business - way beyond the obvious cultural benefits. There’s a clear recognition that inefficient, unproductive workforces can be even more damaging than short-term dips in new business revenue.
Here’s a few ways to make the most of your EAP:
- Identify the best internal channels to share how your EAP works and document the benefits of using the service.
- As well as posting full details on the intranet, you could also try sharing information via messaging channels like Slack, email, or even asking business leaders to talk about the EAP during their team meetings.
- Highlight that confidentiality is guaranteed, especially when it comes to counselling and health services, and emphasise that people can ask for help with pretty much anything that’s problematic in their daily lives.
Small steps can drive positive behaviours.
When somebody has decided to improve an aspect of their health and wellbeing, it can be tricky to know how to make that first step. It’s not uncommon for people to feel overwhelmed by it all and give up before they even get going.
65% of employees would do more physical activity if they were rewarded for this by their employers.
One of the most effective ways that employers can help people make positive changes to their lifestyles is by encouraging micro-habits.
Micro-habits, such as short walks or 10-minute meditation sessions, can add up over time to give a significant boost to health. Sometimes the smallest habits make the biggest difference because they’re much easier to start and maintain.
Offering incentives is another great way to encourage your staff to make positive changes to their behaviour. Our recent survey has highlighted that 65% of employees would do more physical activity if they were rewarded for this by their employers.
Small changes to working environments can also play a big part in improved physical health. Remote working caught many employers off guard and left employees without adequate working spaces and setups. Failing to address this will no doubt lead to an increase in physical health conditions and potential absenteeism.
Check out our essential guide to working from home for some specific and detailed tips on how to manage this transition better in your company.
Find ways to reduce financial anxieties
The pandemic has had major consequences on the UK job market with as many as 1.2 million employers furloughing staff in the past year.
Uncertainty about the future has caused many people to question the stability of their income and the future of their careers. There are also health risks added to the mix that could mean that people need to suddenly stop working, perhaps for an extended period.
Group Income Protection is a valuable company benefit that can ease anxiety about what could happen if an employee is struck with an illness and forced to stop working. Knowing that a safety net like this is in place means there’s one less thing to worry about - especially in the middle of a global pandemic. There’s an awful lot on people’s minds and giving them an extra layer of financial protection can help them to focus on other priorities.
Educating staff about how to manage their finances is another great way to help reduce anxiety about money. Discount schemes can help employees feel supported and give them ways to save some extra cash. They can be especially useful if some of the discounts are also linked to health and positive behavioural changes.
Bridge the gap between risk insurance and wellbeing with data
Risk insurance and wellbeing services are often kept separate, but bridging the gap between the two is a great way for businesses to discover new ways to better support their staff.
Speak with your current insurer to get access to anonymised employee data that shows trends in how your employees behave and the services they are using. These insights won’t just give you an indication into whether you’re getting value for money from the benefits you offer, they can identify deep rooted issues within your workforce.
For example, a law firm offering Yulife’s wellness app discovered that many of their staff were heavily using the mindfulness features at night. It transpired that staff were having difficulties getting to sleep, alongside the realisation that this was contributing to poorer productivity during the working day. These valuable insights were the stimulus for the business to hire a sleep specialist to help solve the problem.
Put in the right support
If your business is looking to make a positive change with mental health and wellbeing within your workforce, remember that it’s about putting in the right support in place.
Make the effort to truly understand employee behaviour and their needs through data - it’s not just about how much money you invest into a wellbeing programme.
This approach will ensure that you get value for money for your wellbeing related investments and don’t fall into the trap of adding superficial benefits that are rarely used.
YuLife offers companies of all sizes an easy way to offer extra financial protection that comes bundled with the health and wellbeing benefits that employees expect.
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Anna joined the YuCrew in 2020. She loves doing walking challenges with her puppy and reading in her spare time.