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12 May 2017

Mental wellbeing is an increasing priority for UK employers

The CIPD, recently found that the number of people that have experienced mental health problems, while in employment, has grown from a quarter to a third over the last five years. And, according to Punter Southall Health and Protection, a growing number of employers are now tackling mental health challenges by introducing wellbeing strategies focused on improving their workforce mental wellbeing.

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Marking Mental Health Awareness Week (8th-14th May) leading UK employee benefits consultancy, Punter Southall Health and Protection,   has highlighted key trends from its recent research report, ‘Employee Wellbeing Research 2017: The evolution of workplace wellbeing in the UK,’ undertaken in association with REBA, which demonstrate that employers are increasingly prioritising their employees’ mental wellbeing .

45% of companies now have a clearly-defined wellbeing strategy in place, compared to less than a third (30%) in 2016. 82% of these strategies include mental health, with a further 15% saying they plan to add mental health initiatives to their strategy in 2017.

More than half (56%) of employers said that mental health support is one of the most effective wellbeing initiatives for their business, together with employee assistance programmes (EAPs) and on-site medical support.

The research also highlighted that EAPs are considered the number one wellbeing benefit. They are favoured by 89% of employers because they are proven way to help people cope with personal or work-related issues causing distress and seen as an effective way to manage mental health at work.

So, what measures are employers introducing to support their employees?

Beate O’Neil, Head of Wellbeing Consulting at Punter Southall Health & Protection said,

“Companies are supporting employees with mental health issues in several different ways, from providing access to services such as counselling and mental health first aiders through their EAPS, introducing workshops that focus on specific mental health issues, such as how to cope with stress, and by increasing the level of training for line managers so they can better identify, support and manage employees suffering from a mental health condition.”

The research found over three-quarters (76%) of wellbeing training for line managers covers stress and resilience, further reflecting the growing importance employers are placing on mental health and the key role of line managers in tackling this.
O’Neil added,

“Line managers are perfectly placed to spot the early warning signs of stress, anxiety and depression in their employees such as changes in people’s behaviour or appearance. But they need to be properly equipped to support the company’s overall wellbeing strategy and trained to make the best use of the resources available.”

The research also found that 39% of companies plan to introduce mindfulness sessions over the next few years as a way of addressing specific concerns about the mental health of employees such as “heavy workloads”, “burn out” and “lack of resilience”.

Others are focusing on financial education and sleep management – both issues were highlighted as two of the fastest growing areas of wellbeing.

In February Punter Southall Health & Protection hosted a ‘Wellbeing Masterclass’ and introduced a range of experts to discuss wellbeing.

One of the guest speakers was Alex Tambourines, CEO of the mental health charity, Hammersmith & Fulham Mind. He provided advice to employers on how to raise awareness of mental health issues within the workplace, encourage open dialogue about mental health issues and promote and improve employee mental wellbeing.
Alex Tambourines, CEO Hammersmith & Fulham Mind said,

“Every year, one in four of us will experience a mental health problem. But despite the large numbers of people affected by mental health issues and the fact that every one of us has mental health it still seems to be an issue that isn’t consciously part of our everyday lives. This needs to change.
It’s encouraging to see that growing numbers of employers are actively including mental health initiatives within their corporate wellbeing strategies and are starting to tackle the stigma surrounding mental health in the workplace.
“Poor mental health is now the number one reason for staff absence. Line managers are often the first line of defence in identifying that someone is experiencing difficulties. Ensuring that they have the tools to support their colleagues is therefore essential. Mind and other similar organisations provide training and consultancy to employers to actively promote mental wellbeing in the workplace.”

“Just like our physical health, we all need to make time look after our mental health, so during Mental Health Awareness week, why not try ‘The Five Ways to Wellbeing‘:

1) Connect,

2) Be active,

3) Take notice,

4) Keep learning and

5) Give.”

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