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The build up to Christmas is stressful on many levels – with work deadlines often looming before the holidays, combined with stress around getting everything ready for the festive period, on top of this it is reported that we spend 20 per cent more on food, 85 per cent more on books and 30 per cent more on alcohol over December. Spending habits in December change dramatically, with a typical household spending £800 extra in this month alone.

With Christmas fast-approaching and financial wellbeing being an increasingly important contributing factor to the state of someone’s mental health, employee wellbeing should be approached holistically by employers. Here we outline the steps employers should be taking to effectively support mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.

1. Recognise your role in effecting long-term cultural change

Our recent UK Reward Management Survey highlighted how employers are acknowledging their responsibility to support employees with their wider wellbeing and specifically, their mental health. 83 per cent of respondents have policies and procedures in place to specifically support mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. Whilst traditionally health would have signaled the involvement of occupational health and more prescriptive interventions, 100 per cent of respondents acknowledged that one of the biggest hurdles to addressing mental health is overcoming workplace stigma, which is more of a cultural and communication issue. Creating a culture in which employees feel supported is the critical first step in tackling mental health issues throughout your organisation. Employees need to know that help is not only available, but positively encouraged.

2. Commit to long-term change

Return on investment was frequently cited as a barrier to overcome when requesting resource in this area; however, 82 per cent cited a lack of clarity over how to measure success as a challenge. This is in spite of research by the Centre for Mental Health which estimates that poor mental health costs employers £34.9 billion per year in lost productivity.  When asked if respondents had a dedicated budget for mental health and wellbeing programmes in their business, 55 per cent said no. When it comes to implementing employee mental health initiatives, employers cited the biggest pressures as time, cost and resources – exactly what is needed to bring about long-term cultural change.

3. Assess the value employees derive from your workplace initiatives

Wellbeing for one employee can differ to wellbeing as defined by another. Identify what your employees want out by asking them directly. At Paydata we encourage active listening – it sidesteps trial and error for the most part, as employees have input into the schemes from the outset. Asking them directly whether they are getting enough support from managers or whether they are comfortable talking about their mental or physical health in the workplace and the priority they place in taking care of themselves, are vital insights into the type of culture you are fostering.

4. Encourage every day behavioural change

Once you have defined what your employees derive the most value from, you can tailor your initiatives and benefits to address their needs directly. Whilst 92 per cent provide flexible working and 86 per cent offer access to counselling services, the programmes are a strong signal of an employer’s focus on the wider concerns of their employees. It is important to note the opportunity for mental health and wellbeing initiatives to be incorporated into benefits packages and the many different approaches organisations take to defining wellbeing in the workplace - 70 per cent offer bike to work schemes, 42 per cent offer gym memberships and 57 per cent offer health check-ups. ‘Health’ is all about little changes that result in big achievements for each individual.

5. Explore how your employee benefits support wellbeing that is physical, mental and financial

Stress can be effectively managed by ensuring each employee is comfortable in managing their finances, workload and incorporating exercise and good nutrition. All of these factors are interrelated and employers can provide support in all of these areas by offering access to the tools and resources, particularly in the benefits packages they offer. For example, Employee Assistance Programmes featured in the top benefits offered by respondents in our UK Reward Management Survey; these offer employees confidential counselling and advice on a range of work and personal issues. Financial support is a key dimension of mental health – those offering employee assistance programmes will often provide access to financial advice, demonstrating the range of issues that wellbeing touches upon. In recognition of this, campaigners are urging parties to put mental and physical first aid on an equal footing at work.

Education around financial planning can be equally valuable to employees as providing fresh fruit on a daily basis, to ensure that individuals have the resources on hand to make the right decisions on an individual level. Mind have also provided employees with guidance around the steps they can take to ensure they use the festive period to recharge and come back re-energised for 2020.

Get in touch if you would like to talk more about employee wellbeing and the importance of mental health in the workplace. 

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