How can communications engage staff around emotional wellbeing supports?

Comms emotional wellbeing

Need to know:

  • Internal campaigns that promote mental health awareness and use personal stories are a useful way to engage staff with their emotional wellbeing.
  • Organisational culture and senior leaders acting as role models can further encourage important conversations in the workplace.
  • Interactive apps, automated emails and data-driven communications are becoming more prominent methods in this space.

Organisations are taking the mental health of their employees increasingly seriously, especially when compared to the efforts many already undertake with regards to physical health.

The Employee wellbeing research 2018, published by Punter Southall Health and Protection in October 2018, for instance, found that while only 16% of employers currently have a defined mental health strategy in place, more than a third (37%) plan to introduce one in the next 12 months.

For many businesses, however, it is communicating a mental health strategy to staff that can prove the biggest challenge.

The communications challenge

One method of tackling this is to develop specific campaigns in order to raise awareness, says Jack Curzon, head of scheme design at Thomsons Online Benefits. “Employers need to pick the right time to communicate with their employees, and do so in a range of ways, through a variety of platforms,” he adds. “For example, they could combine messaging on mental health and wellbeing benefits with a charity day that raises money for an organisation such as [the mental health awareness charity] Mind.”

Targeting particular groups of employees who may experience mental health and emotional wellbeing challenges, such as graduates or new parents, can also be effective, Curzon adds.

Equally, employers can promote emotional and mental wellbeing schemes using employees’ own experiences, notes Catrin Lewis, head of global engagement and internal communications at Reward Gateway.

Lewis, who oversaw a mental health campaign last year, explains: “We’d run My top 10 tips for dealing with stress style blogs before, which we thought would be a good tool for people. It was okay, but didn’t get to the root of the issue. It was then that we realised our best tool for this topic was our people. Getting them to open up and connect on a deeper level was key to getting our employees to engage with emotional wellbeing.”

Delivering the message

There are a range of different communication methods that employers can implement to promote wellbeing supports. Nicola Britovsek, director of HR at Sodexo Engage, says: “Some people will want printed information posted to them discreetly, while others would rather just receive an email. There are lots of other options, too. Information on wellbeing benefits can be included in a newsletter, uploaded onto the intranet, or even included in a podcast.”

Other communication tools might include on-site posters to advertise emotional wellbeing and mental health support, or handing out wallet fold-out cards for people to carry with them, adds Sarah Robson, senior communications consultant at Aon.

Furthermore, the use of digital technology for communications is likely to increase; this includes interactive apps and data-driven communications. “We could see triggered emails for certain life events and world events, or times when higher incidents of money and relationship worries are known to occur, for example in December and January,” Robson suggests.

Nevertheless, innovation must reflect what employees want, warns Britovsek. “For some, that will mean using more consumer-led approaches such as messenger apps to communicate with them directly,” she says. “Others may be better served by solutions that use new technologies like [artificial intelligence] and automation to help identify and address their mental and physical wellbeing.”

Addressing wellbeing

Ideally, mental and physical wellness should be treated under the broader remit of ‘health’, says Mike Blake, wellbeing lead at Willis Towers Watson Health and Benefits. There also needs to be an element of education when it comes to mental health.

“The pressures of work are getting greater, so people need to be able to do something about that to switch off,” Blake explains. “[Employers] could help someone with resilience training or some mindfulness or mediation exercises. But people have to be instructed, from a book or a video, on how to do that. It’s that sort of information that people need.”

Having a culture of openness is also essential if employees are to talk about their issues, stresses John Dean, commercial director at Punter Southall Health and Protection.

“If a senior executive at the top of the [organisation] can be open about their mental health, this will help eradicate any stigma around the subject within the organisation,” he says. “The relationship people have with their employer can be a significant factor in the level of engagement employees have with wellbeing programmes.”

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