Which employee benefits are most valuable for improving mental health at work in your organisation?

Written by Anna Bishop
Jan 13, 2021

Anna is a Training Product Manager at Red Cross Training responsible for the development and review of our training products.

Poor mental health in the workplace has the potential to result in huge costs for UK businesses.

In fact, a study by Deloitte found that mental health issues at work are actually costing UK employers £45 billion each year. While many businesses are taking steps to implement employee benefits in the workplace, the barriers to investment in mental health initiatives still remain - such as resistance from management, a general lack of knowledge about the subject, or failure to find reasonable evidence that suggests investments can positively impact the bottom line.

Yet, creating a safe and supportive workplace - one that supports physical and mental health - is absolutely essential to achieving wider business goals.

It’s this conflict you’re probably facing. Clearly, investment into some kind of mental health initiative in your organisation is needed. But how exactly can you ensure it's worth it?

We discuss some of the most valuable employee benefits you can implement to improve mental wellbeing in your organisation - including “work perks”, specific initiatives, and training.

It’s important to note that looking at return on investment alone when considering these examples would be misguided. Promoting and protecting employee mental wellbeing in the workplace should also take into consideration legal, financial, and moral factors. This blog simply presents employee benefits that prove to be beneficial in reducing the costs associated with poor mental health in the workplace (such as increased sick days, presenteeism and so on).

 

Flexible working

Flexible work options could include flexible location, hours, and schedule - that give employees more freedom and autonomy about how they work. However, it doesn’t just offer flexibility to those who feel they work best outside the standard 9 to 5 (though this is important). As we’ve seen throughout the last year, flexible working allows employees to fit working hours around other, sometimes more demanding commitments.

For example, if you have employees who have very young children, or perhaps care for someone in their family, stress can be easily caused by trying to “be seen” at work, while also juggling other personal responsibilities. Offering flexible working arrangements can help in reducing employee concerns about their external circumstances affecting their work, and makes them feel supported by you as an employer.

While flexible working won’t be for everyone, offering the option is a great employee benefit that promotes better wellbeing throughout the workplace. Those that wish to take advantage of flexible work are able to, and it’s a relatively straightforward way to offer an employee benefit that can make a real positive impact on the lives of your employees.

 

Healthcare plans

A great employee benefit to offer (if you’re able to) is company subsidised or paid-for healthcare packages. Although the majority of employees will be able to access free healthcare, offering access to private, or paid-for treatment when they need it can be valuable in numerous ways:

  • Offering some kind of medical package, such as a healthcare cash plan could reduce stress that often comes with trying to secure an appointment - as employees will be able to access healthcare beyond what is readily available to them.
  • Healthcare plans (depending on your package, and how much you pay) can also cover services that aren’t free or cheap, such as dental care, optician visits and even physiotherapy and counselling services.
  • Physical health is often a huge factor when it comes to someone’s mental health. Offering to contribute to employee medical bills will not only contribute to keeping your workforce healthy, but is a genuinely valuable employee benefit.

While implementing some kind of healthcare scheme will require some initial investment, ensuring your workforce is looked after (both physically and mentally) may lead to a reduction in sick days, or absenteeism.

 

“Work perks”

Many organisations offer a variety of benefits to their employees that we’ll refer to as “work perks”. Generally, these benefits are relatively easy to implement at little cost, and can include the following:

  • Access to an employee assistance programme (employer funded confidential counselling and advice on a wide range of work or personal issues).
  • Discounted gym memberships (great for the physical and mental health benefits of exercise)
  • Cycle to work schemes (where you will subsidise the cost of a bike for an employee)
  • Early finish days, or additional annual leave (such as a day off for employee birthdays)
  • Other incentives such as cinema tickets, bonuses or competitions

“Work perks” such as these are a great, often low-cost way to help improve employee wellbeing and morale - especially if you make them specific to each employee, and they are implemented with improving mental health in mind.

This means not just choosing to implement incentives that require little effort, but really thinking about what benefits could make a positive impact on your employees’ wellbeing.

 

Mental health and wellbeing training

While the other employee benefits we’ve mentioned do contribute to improving mental health and wellbeing in an organisation, they only really achieve this if there is a supportive culture in place to begin with.

One of the biggest problems regarding mental health at work is the stigma that comes from talking about mental health, as well as how to help someone who is struggling.

Reluctance to discuss difficult situations in work can only exacerbate issues, and it’s important to tackle this head-on - both in leadership and across the wider organisation.

Arguably, the biggest benefit to your employees when it comes to improving mental health is investing in organisation-wide training that helps foster a more supportive, open company culture.

By completing mental health training:

  • Leadership teams gain an awareness of mental health challenges and develop skills for leading a resilient team.
  • Employees build essential resilience skills, such as how to cope during and after difficult situations, how to better manage stress and how to support others.
  • Organisations create a more supportive and open work environment, where employee wellbeing is prioritised.

Mental health training also provides value in your investment. It shows you care about the wellbeing of your employees, and that you’re actively challenging stigma around mental health in the workplace - alongside the other "nice-to-have" benefits we've discussed above.

Once you have a work culture where employees feel properly supported, you’ll be surprised at the resulting positive impact across your organisation. Whichever employee benefits you choose to implement from our guidance, investing in organisation-wide training is an excellent place to start.

To learn more about mental health training as a whole, download our free guide below. We help you navigate the perceived complexity of mental health at work, including what courses are currently available, what your responsibilities are as an employer, and how you can find the right training partner to facilitate lasting change in your organisation.

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Topics: Mental health & wellbeing

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