Time to Talk Day, taking place Thursday February 1, is an annual awareness day which aims to break the taboo and start open conversations about mental health. With a recent study from Fora* finding half (51%) of hybrid workers have taken time off work as a result of stress or anxiety in the past year, missing an average of 6.1 days each, it’s a more important time than ever for employers to have the necessary support and resources in place to fuel a happy workforce and support their colleagues mental health.
Here, Adrian Matthews, Head of Employee Benefits at MetLife UK, shares his tips to help employers better support their staff’s mental health:
- Touchpoints that work for us all – With many companies continuing to use hybrid working, a new age issue we face is the “silent” employee. These could be those who choose to come into the office on quieter days or pass on social occasions. While this may just be the personality type of certain employees, it’s important that fellow employees and employers a-like should keep an eye on them. Anxiety can often manifest itself into fear or social discomfort, so providing valuable touch points and open conversation into how hybrid working is suiting them is imperative. Creating a greater connection is key, this could range from one-on-one coffee catch ups if a social event does not suit the employee, or implementing team breakfasts and lunches to solidify the company as a group or family.
- The importance of managers – Employees and employers can often overlook the role of the line-manager. Making sure managers model positive wellbeing behaviours and use their voice to challenge stigma can help employees to open up about their own mental health, likely sooner than they otherwise would. As an employer, making sure regular meetings for managers and their employees are in the diary is key. Moreover, the importance of managers fully understanding the support and packages provided must be reiterated either through regular emails or as part of manager training.
- Understand the support available – A group benefits package should provide a host of services to support employees (and their families) at their time of need, however big or small. For example, a Wellbeing Hub provided through Group Income Protection, or an Employee Assistance Programme through Group Life will greatly help employees during times of need. Contact your provider to ensure you are maximising all the help that is available. Providers often enhance or add new services to their offering, so the new year is a good time to check in with them to ensure you are maximising the support available.
With this in mind, employers should make sure these packages available are clearly signposted and accessible, this could be through a quarterly email reiterating these packages or by running through what is available at a meeting. With the growth of hybrid working, ensure you have a mix of communication channels to disseminate your messages. Also, consider that in most instances, employees will need to access information outside of working hours, so an app or hard copies can be helpful as a point of reference.