Before the pandemic, one in six workers experienced a mental health problem at any one time in the UK, with mental health related absence the most common cause of long-term sickness, writes Matthew Vamplew.
Post pandemic, the problem has only exacerbated. The Office for National Statistics says 21 percent of adults have experienced some form of depression in early 2021; which is more than doubled since before the pandemic.
Given we spend so much of our time at work, our mental wellbeing has plenty of time to be impacted, so WHY aren’t organisations doing enough to support their staff?
As CEO of an employee mental health company, I have spoken to a LOT of HR and People managers over the last few months and I would like to share with you some of the most common excuses I have encountered for not doing enough to support employee mental wellbeing.
It’s pretty eye opening. But, why isn’t enough being done?
“We already have an Employee Assistance Program”
Employee Assistance Programs are bought by organisations thinking it’s the best way to support their staff and tick the “we support staff mental wellbeing” box.
Dig deeper and it’s another story.
EAP’s price for services based on assumed usage. They don’t want you using the most expensive service – counselling – the most useful mental health tool available! Utilisation of counselling services are between 10%-30%, meaning your cost per session could be as high as £100 per person, per session.
EAPs do not match to the right therapist, rather to those based on availability. The better the therapeutic relationship, the better the therapeutic outcome, so why do organisations continue to pay for EAP programs when benefit and utilisation is so minimal?
“Yes, I know it’s important. Now isn’t the right time given we have just committed to x project (unrelated to employee mental wellbeing)”
I like this one.
This new project needs to be delivered by employees and better mental health leads to better productivity and reduced presenteeism (“attending work whilst ill and therefore not performing at full ability”).
Presenteeism can cost twice as much as absenteeism. Investing in their employees’ mental wellbeing would benefit the delivery of projects and improve people’s happiness!
This is a classic example of viewing employee mental wellbeing as a cost rather than an investment in the future productivity benefits to your organisation.
“We can’t afford to support our staff right now. Plus if they feel bad, they can just share with us anyway – we have a pretty open culture.”
This shows a top down view of the perception of openness of their organisation’s culture. I can tell you 80% are wrong.
It’s the idea of “if I can’t see it, it doesn’t exist” – a bit like playing peekabo with a toddler, when you cover their eyes you don’t exist, yet when you clear them they are surprised to see you!
You do not want to be taken by surprise when staff take months off ill due to burnout, because you didn’t have any tools in place to prevent this from happening in the first place.
The time is now
HR and People Managers have a huge responsibility to signal to employees what’s important to your organisation.
Be a role model for your employees, visibly showing investment in employee mental wellbeing services (even sharing your own experience of using them) to show you practice what you preach.
There has NEVER been a more important time to support the mental wellbeing of your staff, so stop procrastinating and make wellbeing at work a priority for 2022.
Matthew Vamplew is Co-Founder and CEO of Paranimo, a mental health technology company supporting organisations to better understand and improve mental wellbeing, by matching employee’s to the right mental health support.