Time to revisit and recharge your mental health armoury

By Tracey Ward, Head of Business Development and Marketing at Generali UK Employee Benefits

Employees in the UK are at a particularly low ebb right now. In fact, the working population is currently as distressed as the ‘most distressed’ one per cent of working Britons, prior to 2020, according to Morneau Shepell, the provider’s of Lifeworks in the UK, based on their latest monthly Mental Health Index. As employers start thinking about a return, in part or full, to physical workplaces, it’s worth a look at local and global emotional health. At the same time, revisiting your support services. The kind of things – EAPs, virtual GPs, and mental wellbeing apps – that saw big increases in usage as we adapted to life and work in a pandemic* could prove valuable again as we adapt to life and work in recovery and beyond.

Morneau Shepell’s January 2021 Mental Health Index for the UK reveals that nearly a quarter of individuals (23%) reported more stress than the prior month, while the proportion of individuals reporting less mental stress is only 6%.

The picture is very much the same across the other regions surveyed by Morneau Shepell; namely the US, Canada, and Australia. The report states: ‘The level of mental health in January continues to be a concern as it indicates that the working population in all four geographies is significantly distressed when compared to mental health scores prior to 2020’.

Comparing December 2020 to January 2021, there is a significant increase in mental stress in all regions. The greatest is Canada (60.1), followed by the UK (58.5), the US (56.7), and Australia (54.4).

Rethinking priorities

Across all geographies, the three most commonly reported areas that changed negatively due to the pandemic are social life, financial security, and mental health. Many are now rethinking priorities amid the ongoing impact of the pandemic on work. At least four in 10 respondents indicate that worry over job/income security will change their future spending habits.

In all countries, more than half of the respondent group report family as their primary area of focus. Physical health, having fun/enjoying life, and financial security are the next most commonly reported focus areas.

For employers, the key now is to revisit existing benefits and services, as part of a wider wellbeing strategy, and consider how to best support people throughout this next stage of massive upheaval; namely return to work, recovery, and refocus.

Where group income protection clients and their employees are concerned, this support comes in various interconnected ways (either already embedded in the product or available via Wellbeing Investment Matching funding support, where Generali’s clients are concerned):


  • Employees: wellbeing awareness and education resources; EAP access for the employee and their immediate family; second medical opinion services.
  • Employers: communication support, EAP management support; bespoke, facilitated workshops to help HR and Line Managers understand, manage and promote mental health as an integral part of working life; mental health first aid training,

Early intervention & Rehabilitation

As above for both employers and employees, plus for example:

  • Nurse-led absence management from early on, e.g. day 10 of absence.
  • Expert mental health diagnosis and action plans, including signposting to relevant support – whether other services provided by the employer, or community support.
  • EAP triage; referrals to long-term or specialised support when appropriate.
  • Long Covid support or wellbeing checks following HR or Line Manager referral.
  • Referrals to bespoke support via Generali’s Vocational Rehabilitation Consultants.

Darren Michel, Claims Manager at Generali UK Employee Benefits, says: “Our Vocational Rehabilitation Consultants will speak with an employee who is absent from work after a period of time, often prior to a claim even being made, to discuss the obstacles to a return to work and look at how those obstacles can be removed. The solutions are very much constructed on a case-by-case basis and designed according to not only to what the consultant thinks will help, but also – and perhaps more importantly – what the employee thinks will help.

“At Generali, we take a very sensible, open-minded approach where nothing is off the table. As well as more traditional solutions, such as diagnostics and counseling, we have funded all kinds of things from gym membership and acupuncture to hypnotherapy and massage therapy.”

Generali UK Employee Benefits recently hosted a stress resilience workshop in partnership with vocational rehabilitation expert Form Health. To request the recording, please email [email protected]

*69.4% of employers reported increased usage of their EAP since the onset of the pandemic; 85.5% witnessed a spike in the number of employees using their mental wellbeing app, and 37.8% reported increased usage of virtual GPs. Source: REBA, Ways in which the coronavirus crisis is reshaping pay, bonus and employee benefits decisions, June 2020 https://reba.global/reports