Wellness has become an ever-increasing buzzword in the corporate marketplace, although the majority of sizeable businesses have now taken some steps to address the issue, these have often fallen well short of the type of robust integrated programme actually necessary.
Indeed, recent qualitative benchmarking research commissioned by Chase de Vere from Lightbulb found that only 35% of employers have a specific health and wellbeing strategy. Not having one is likely to prove the mother of false economies, particularly when it comes to mental health issues.
Benenden Health’s recent Mental Health in the Workplace Report found that a staggering seven in 10 employees have suffered from a condition that’s related to mental health – ranging from stress to suicidal feelings. Increased workloads and financial concerns were cited as the two main causes.
More than half the 1,000 employees surveyed either didn’t have a workplace mental health policy (28%) or didn’t know if they had one (26%). Only 24% said their company engages regularly with them on issues of mental health and under 10% said they would confide in their employer if they suffered from a mental health condition.
At first glance, some of this certainly flies in the face of our own benchmarking research which found that 61% of employers said they offer employees specific support with mental health issues.
But, in my view, it is highly probable that many of those who purport to offer such support are simply providing access to an employee assistance programme (EAP) and, worse still, probably also failing to communicate this adequately.
EAPs, which – amongst many other things – typically offer employees free confidential telephone and face-to-face counselling, can certainly have a valuable part to play and can be particularly effective in preventing initial stress problems developing into full-blown absenteeism issues.
Nevertheless, they only represent one piece of the overall health and wellbeing jigsaw and need to be successfully integrated with other resources such as absence management programmes, occupational health, early intervention and rehabilitation.
Chase de Vere can tailor a suitable programme to suit the needs of your organisation and your budget and can even incorporate financial education programmes into this to help employees combat the issue of financial stress.
Whilst a comprehensive health and wellbeing programme may involve needing to invest in new products and systems, it should eventually more than pay for itself in reduced absenteeism and presenteeism. Immediate savings may also be realised by the fact that it will trigger employers into using existing facilities they were largely unaware they had.
For example, many have access to a range of early intervention and rehabilitation services automatically included in a group income protection scheme – even if it is a low-cost scheme that pays out for only two to five years as opposed to up until retirement.
We can ensure that these are put to best use and that the data they produce is suitably monitored and acted upon.
Our fully integrated approach also means we can save employers money by cutting out overlap. For example, I have come across one firm that was completely unaware that it already had three existing EAPs automatically included on different employee benefits, so it had paid to get a fourth stand-alone EAP!
It may be possible to negotiate discounts by removing unwanted benefits that are duplicated elsewhere but, if not, we can at least recommend which of your current providers is offering the best service to take advantage of.
For example, some EAPs offer a significantly broader range and higher quality of services than others, and debt counselling services, which can be available both via EAPs and group income protection schemes, can also vary in quality.
Additionally, we can help you formulate an effective communications strategy to ensure that employees fully appreciate the support that is available through your overall health and wellbeing programme.