The taboo around discussing stress and mental illness in the workplace is being broken down. Helen Swire asks how employers can help

health cash plan

Sometimes billed the ‘last taboo’ in workplace conversations, employers are at last beginning to see the growing need – and respond to employee desire – to discuss mental wellbeing at work.

Broaching the topic of stress and mental wellbeing with an employee at work isn’t straightforward, and perhaps that’s the reason why it remains a ‘taboo’ subject.

Nonetheless, as more employers consider how they can help their staff with mental wellbeing issues, they need to think about not only how to recognise problems but who should deal with them.

With 63% saying the line manager needs to identify and manage stress in their team and refer individuals to support, it is clear that many organisations now take a very personal and paternalistic approach to their staff’s mental wellness.

As helpful as this approach must be, it entails a good level of communication: employees must be aware that they can reach out to their line manager if they need to, while line managers need to be appropriately educated on identifying issues, responding to them, and referring employees to the correct service.

For line managers given insufficient support on how to deal with staff issues of this type, handling workplace stress can become a source of stress in its own right.

Regardless of the cause of the problem, there are employee benefits solutions that hold the answer to helping staff deal with anxiety, depression and stress: many of which are highly cost-effective for employers.

According to the research, 22% of employers offer employee-paid health cash plans, while 16% pay for their staff to have access to one. Such plans now often focus on mental wellbeing as a key area in which to help employees.

Well over a third (36%) of employers pay for all their staff to have an EAP in place: one of the most established forms of mental wellbeing provision, which will direct employees to the appropriate help such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and counselling. Many occupational health programmes and virtual GPs now also offer these services.

Meanwhile, the conversation about having a financially well workforce is growing year on year, with the result that debt counselling and financial education are increasingly commonplace employee benefits.

While not a traditional employee benefit, ensuring that line managers (or others responsible for identifying and supporting employees with stress and/or mental health issues) are sufficiently well trained and able to understand the key signs of stress can also make a key difference in building a supportive working culture.

A happy workforce is an engaged and productive workforce. The return on investment from any benefits looking after employee mental health is clear.

To read more, download Reward and Medicash’s in-depth guide to workplace healthcare, by CLICKING HERE