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By Heather Magee, HR Director, EValue

Today, a greater amount of emphasis is being placed on identifying and relieving mental health issues than ever before – and rightly so. According to mental health charity Mind, approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. What’s more, 89% of individuals said that these issues affect their daily working life. And while it seems that more and more people are being affected, there are ongoing concerns that employers are not doing enough to support members of staff who are suffering from mental health issues, and help make work more manageable for them.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, 13% of all sick days in the UK are down to mental ill health. These issues also often manifest in staff turnover and poor productivity – which costed UK employers a combined £42bn in 2017. It is therefore essential that businesses do all they can to minimise workplace mental health issues – both for the wellbeing of their employees, and their bottom lines. This is where investments and pensions advice and guidance can play a crucial role.

Feeling the financial strain

It’s not just the day-to-day stresses of work that cause employee anxiety. One of the greatest causes of stress in the workplace seems to be worries about personal finance. Money worries are known to have an enormous effect on mental wellbeing, and can be both the cause and effect of mental health problems. It is vital that employers understand the impact that personal financial worries have on workplace mental health, to ensure staff have a better ‘financial wellbeing’ at work. Financial wellbeing is defined by a combination of key factors: being in control of finances; having the capacity to withstand financial shocks; having confidence in the future; and having choices on how to spend and save. Without this, staff may naturally feel more insecure about their finances.

According to CIPD’s latest Health and Wellbeing at Work report, financial wellbeing is still a relatively neglected area of organisational policy. The report found more than a third (36%) of managers did not believe their workers demonstrated the knowledge or skills to make the right rewards and benefits choices for their financial needs – something that urgently needs to change.

One key way to help businesses keep their employees happy and informed about their financial and pensions security is using external support, such as employee benefits consultants. In today’s competitive market, this additional support can not only provide financial guidance to keep workers assured, but also help attract and retain staff.

The benefits of benefits consultants

Employee benefits strategies should encompass everything from healthcare to flexible working, to improve the mental and physical wellbeing of employees. In turn, this can help drive employee engagement and happiness.

Pensions should be a key focus area for benefits consultants. In previous years, plans were seen as a bonus and a job attraction–, but today the implementation of auto-enrollment has standardised the pensions landscape. Here, employee benefits consultants can play a vital role, helping companies better understand their workforce’s needs, and develop options that ultimately offer workers more job satisfaction by catering to them and their lives. Companies can also use new technologies to create in-house platforms that make it even easier for employees to access their benefits and stay informed. This technology also enables smaller businesses, or employee benefits consultants without formal financial training, to provide financial advice.

Providing peace of mind

When it comes to other steps that companies can and should take to address mental health issues in the workplace, businesses should train staff to spot signs that someone could be struggling, and for them to be able to direct employees towards appropriate support. This can be done by training people to be qualified mental health first aiders that can provide in-house support. Once trained, these first aiders can identify, understand and help anyone that may be experiencing a mental health issue.

Mental health first aid could become mandatory in workplaces, so any businesses that adopts it now will be ahead of the game, as well as helping to create a supportive, open culture around mental health.

Companies can also help alleviate unnecessary anxieties by ensuring that workers know all the facts about their pensions, giving them the freedom and knowledge to make informed financial decisions.

When it comes to personal finances, businesses should also do everything possible to educate employees, be it through training programmes, workshops or printed materials. Money worries can have an enormous effect on mental wellbeing and can be both the cause and effect of mental health problems. By eliminating this problem, mental health in the workplace can hopefully be significantly reduced – and ensure that people keep enjoying coming to work.

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