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Why employers may benefit from focusing on mental health

Why employers may benefit from focusing on mental health


In turbulent times, it is no surprise that more emphasis has been placed on the importance of mental health.

A recent Allianz Partners report, titled Supporting Mental Health in the Workplace, revealed only one in 10 employees made use of counselling services offered during the pandemic, demonstrating a disconnect in comfort levels between talking about mental health and actively accessing support services.

This research, conducted amongst expat and local employees in Singapore, the UK, Germany, Canada, and the UAE, aimed to measure the impact of COVID-19 on respondents’ mental health to help employers understand how best to support the mental health of their teams.

In turbulent times, it is no surprise that more emphasis has been placed on the importance of mental health – per the survey, a third of employees say they felt more comfortable talking about mental health over the past 12 months than ever before. Six in 10 also believe people will be more comfortable talking about their mental health in the future.

Many employers have stepped up to adapt to these changes. Over the past few years, employers have increased mental health support for employees, and these efforts are likely to continue post-pandemic.

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However, while more is being done, only two in five employees feel that resources provided by their employer are sufficient to support their mental health. Considering that depression and anxiety cost the global economy USD 1tn a year in lost productivity, it would be beneficial to double down on mental health efforts.

The survey revealed that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to mental health. Several employees valued counselling services while other employees valued the role of technology in aiding their mental health.

With research showing that smartphone apps are the preferred method of monitoring mental health (followed by journaling and speaking to a professional), employers may consider providing employees with information on mental health apps.

The top five most valued mental health support services provided by employers were:

  1. Information;
  2. Digital team get-togethers;
  3. Counselling services;
  4. Extra time off; and
  5. Classes. 

As such, having a variety of services, both in-person and digitally, is important. Efforts may also include a combination of HR sponsored activities, such as wellness talks and those based around personal relationships, because many people only feel comfortable talking about their mental health with friends or family.

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At the same time, less than a quarter of respondents feel comfortable discussing their mental health with a counsellor, which may indicate a lack of awareness by employees about Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP). Subsequently, employers may need to invest in education and awareness campaigns around these services. It is also important to emphasise that these counselling and EAP services are entirely confidential.

Paula Covey, Chief Marketing Officer for Health at Allianz Partners said: “While the health insurance industry always recognised the importance of mental health as well as physical health, in the wider public domain it felt, to some degree, like the silent elephant in the room that everyone knew was there, but people were sometimes uncomfortable talking about.

"Our long-term goal is to make talking about mental health as comfortable as talking about a sprained wrist."

She added: “It’s clear from the research that awareness of mental health has increased and people are more comfortable talking about it and this is extremely encouraging. However not all employees feel supported and there’s still a very low up-take of some mental health services like Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP) and counselling. 

More than ever, employers now have the opportunity to truly add real value to their employees’ lives and contribute to a society more open to discussing mental health and wellbeing. By providing employees with the right services, employers may reduce the stigma that has long been attached to mental health.

While you're here... This year, the focus of HRO's National Counselling & Psychotherapy Conference (NCPC), is on promoting the overall mental health and emotional wellbeing of our community as we navigate these uncertain times. Topics include 'the biology of good relationships', 'willpower: self-control, decision fatigue, and energy depletion, and more. Find out more here or write to Cyrus Ching for more details.

Lead image / 123RF
Graphics / Allianz

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