Making the most of mental health support: how to improve take-up

Author: Jamie Styles – People Director at Koa Health – Employee Mental Health and Wellbeing Solutions

Following the coronavirus pandemic, a myriad of problems have unfolded for employees and employers alike. Almost 6 times as many employers have indicated an uptick in mental health issues among their staff since the pandemic[1], and the end of the pandemic hasn’t brought a close to such issues. And while mental health has certainly improved since the COVID19 pandemic began, people are still less satisfied and more anxious than they were pre-pandemic[2]. Fortunately, businesses continue to respond in positive ways by increasing provisions for emotional and mental health programs for their employees. 53% of employers surveyed reported the implementation of employee assistance programs (EAPS)[3]. The investment is well worth the cost as well with studies indicating a return of  6:1, with a strong correlation between employee’s mental and physical health and their willingness to stay with the company[4]. But offering an EAP is only the first step. EAPS are only useful if employers inform staff about benefits, encourage their use, model how to access them, build a safe space where employees feel comfortable accessing mental health support and ensure universal access for their entire workforce.

Make sure your staff know what benefits exist (and why)

One-third of employees either are not aware of existing benefits or don’t fully understand them[5]. By simply informing your team what benefits they have at their fingertips and how to use them, you are already increasing your odds of improved take-up for employee benefits. A great way to shed light on employee benefits, including EAPs, is for management and HR to clearly communicate what services are available, and how and where to access them.

The onboarding process is an obvious place to start, presenting new employees with the opportunity to learn how to make the most of company perks and benefits. It’s also important to regularly promote new and existing tools (and their effectiveness) to your staff. Another way to keep your team informed is to share how you use the company’s mental health resources to manage and navigate obstacles you face at work and at home. This can help encourage them to give tools they may have been uncertain about a try.

Gain trust and get feedback

Another factor behind low take-up of mental health support and EAPS may be that employees feel nervous about divulging personal details. They may not feel comfortable sharing information about their personal lives, emotional health, and high-stress levels. How their private data is kept private, and their personal data is protected, not to mention what information their employers may have access to is deeply concerning for many employees. Making sure employees are fully aware of how their data is protected and that it can only be accessed with written consent from the employee themself is a good first step to take. If employee data is collected but anonymised in order to provide better support to your staff, make how it’s done (and how it’s used) very clear.

Along the same lines, your staff may also feel uncomfortable with using the available mental health support because they feel it doesn’t suit their needs or it’s too complicated. That’s where accessibility and inclusiveness come in.

Provide easily accessible, inclusive resources

When support and tools are provided but are restricted to non-office hours or the reverse, only available during office hours, this presents an additional obstacle for take-up. Some people may prefer to use a wellbeing resource after hours, and others may only be able to find time over a short break during the workday. This is particularly evident for working parents whose ‘free time’ is filled with family responsibilities. Another accessibility issue centres around how workplace mental health support is delivered. Some team members may have time for and prefer to receive traditional in-person  support while others may not have the time for a face-to-face session and may find expressing their mental health concerns in-person stigmatising and prefer a self-guided approach via a mental health or wellbeing app.

Line managers and HR have a significant role to play here. They can help ensure employees feel comfortable being open about their mental health struggles, so that when they have a problem—big or small—they’re ready to be guided towards the right help for their unique circumstances—whether that means an EAP or additional digital-first mental health resources.

For more on making the most of your investment in employee mental health, download our Pocket Guide: The KPIs of Mental Health 

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You’ll learn:
-Employers’ role in combating the growing mental health crisis

-Why an organisational culture of mental wellbeing matters
-Which metrics are most useful for evaluating mental health initiatives