Get your employees talking during Mental Health Awareness Week

Jo Potter, Group Protection Account Manager at Aviva, discusses how employers can use mental health awareness week to start conversations.

There are three pillars to wellbeing: mental, physical and financial. Often, they can be linked. With such a wide-ranging topic, it can be difficult as an employer to know where to start. Where do you focus your efforts? What budget – if any – should you set aside?

There’s a growing focus on the importance of mental health. Starting on 13 May, Mental Health Awareness Week gives you the chance to talk to your employees about the subject and consider the support available.

Mental health is not something businesses can ignore

In 2018, 69% of referrals for rehabilitation through Aviva’s Group Income Protection were for mental health conditions. That statistic is largely reflected across a number of industries.

At any given time, one in four people suffers with mental health issues. That makes it hugely important for employers to embrace any opportunity to remind employees help is available and to make talking about issues the norm.

As part of your solution, you could consider adopting an employee assistance programme. These are a great first touchpoint for employees to confidentially discuss any issues and get in-the-moment support. They also help employers gain advice on how to handle potential issues in the workplace.

With mental health, giving support as early as possible is vitally important. By addressing issues, signposting where to find help, and potentially providing treatment, early intervention support can help you focus on keeping employees well and in work. If an employee has to take time off, it can also help get them back to work more quickly. 

Use the awareness week to let your employees know where they can find help

Often, employees are unaware of the support available to them. As an employer, you can use awareness weeks to promote useful services and educate your employees on what help is out there.

Awareness weeks can also show how different areas of support can work well together. For example, a combination of educational sessions through seminars or presentations works well with interactive sessions or information stands with ‘giveaways’ to encourage engagement.

An approach like this not only helps promote the support available but can also create a ‘feel good’ atmosphere. As an employer, your workforce can see you’re proactively looking after their health and wellbeing by putting practical steps in place to support them. 

Use the awareness week to help you build a wellbeing strategy

Promoting Mental Health Awareness week is a perfect opportunity to remind employees that it’s okay not to feel okay – but you can also let them know where they can find help. It’s a budget friendly, time-efficient way of promoting mental wellbeing in the workplace and provides a key focus for an ongoing wellbeing strategy throughout the year. 

Within your business, you can create a calendar of events based on relevant topics and make this known to employees. You could even use Wellbeing Champions within the business to co-ordinate local events, which works well for multi-sited organisations. 

Using absence management data, you can also identify specific trends impacting your business. Once you have this information, you can target these areas to promote the best return-on-time investment for these events. 

Employment engagement surveys are another fantastic way of gauging how employees are feeling. By including questions related to wellbeing, you can gather invaluable data on what’s on the minds of your employees. And once you know that, you have a chance to change things for the better and make a difference in your employees’ lives.

Raising awareness of wellbeing issues will help you support your workforce

Awareness days or weeks are often backed by charitable organisations. Most of these charities want to spread their message as far and wide as possible.

To do that, they will often provide some material to support these events, such as posters and information packs you can use during the awareness week. This can be a great resource throughout the year – you can signpost them to your employees or use them as inspiration on topics you can cover throughout the year.

This Mental Health Awareness Week could be a great time to start talking about wellbeing with your employees, but it’s not the only awareness day or week. As part of your strategy, you could consider adding other awareness dates to your diary to support your planning and help promote wellbeing in the workplace.

After all, the happier and healthier your workforce is, the more you’ll succeed as an employer.

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