MetLife: Why mental health support should be part of a modern workplace health strategy

This article is supplied by MetLife.

Key points

  • Workplace employee support around resilience and mental health is as important¬†as it is around¬†physical wellness. ¬†
  • But employees must understand and appreciate their benefits to be able to access the right support, as and when they need it.¬†¬†
  • Employees who value their benefits highly¬†are more engaged in their organisation.
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Employers are asking more of their employees than ever before as they wrestle with the challenges facing businesses today, which is why employee support around resilience and mental health is as important as it is around physical wellness.  

The MetLife employee benefit trends study 2014, published in January 2015, revealed that most employers recognise the need for a wellness strategy as part of their business strategy. In fact, 82% of the employers polled considered improving health and wellness as their main benefits objective.  

Employees value wellness

Employees also value wellness. Stress, work-life balance and emotional health are key concerns for them, according to our study, and have a significant impact on their performance and engagement. It therefore goes without saying that creating a wellness strategy that incorporates resilience should be a commercial imperative for all employers. 

Our study revealed three key drivers of employee engagement: having a sense of financial control, having a caring and supportive boss and placing a high value on benefits. Employees who value their benefits highly are markedly more engaged in their organisation. 

More than two-fifths (43%) of respondents who value their benefits highly think their organisation is a great place to work, compared with 20% who do not value their package; more than half (58%) who value their benefits say they will work harder to help their organisation succeed, compared with 20% who do not value their benefits; more than one-third (39%) who value their benefits feel they can balance their work and personal life, compared with 21% who do not value their benefits; and just over one-third (34%) who value their benefits believe their employer is loyal to them, compared with 8% who do not value their benefits.  

It is clear from this data that resilience and engagement are closely connected, but what can employers do at a practical level to offer mental health support to staff as part of a comprehensive wellbeing strategy?

Employers must communicate benefits 

Employers should start by focusing on communicating their benefits packages to staff, to help them understand and appreciate what they are receiving and enable them to get the right support, as and when they need it. 

A simple ‚ÄėABC‚Äô communication model can work well.¬†

First, employers should acknowledge the different demographics in their workforce, as well as the physical locations where staff work. Younger employees may prefer different communications to their older colleagues, for example, just as factory staff need to be contacted in a different way to office-based staff. A simple employee survey can help employers to decide where to focus their campaigns.

Secondly, employers should blend their benefits communications to maximise impact. A combination of media will make more impact on staff and can be mixed and matched to meet staff needs. Employers should not dismiss the power of face-to-face communications, and use managers and leaders as communicators wherever and whenever possible, particularly given the sensitive nature of mental health. 

Finally, employers should continually communicate the benefits they offer to staff. This does not, of course, mean every day, but it should be more than once a year.

Some benefits lend themselves to less frequent communication, such as the wellbeing hub we offer as part of our Proactive Protection group income protection policy. Once registered, employees receive updates and news that reflect their areas of healthcare interest and wellness goals.

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Employees are at their best when they have benefits plans that give them security and peace of mind, so it is time for employers to demand more from their benefits providers. This requires employers to look beyond the functional financial safety net of group risk and toward what once may have been peripheral benefits, but which today should form the foundation of an employee-focused business strategy.

Tom Gaynor is employee benefits director at MetLife