Enhancing Employee Mental Wellbeing – Where to Start


As we all know, these are incredibly stressful times as people are working remotely while caring for children or elders, feeling isolated and lonely, worrying about their finances and job security, dealing with political divide and racial injustice, trying to stay physically healthy, and more. That’s a lot! The good news is that if you’re reading this article, it’s likely because you care about your employees’ mental wellbeing and want to learn how you can help them.

Recognize the Impact & Break the Silence

The first step is for leadership to acknowledge both the collective and the individual struggles that we're all experiencing. Let employees know that it’s absolutely OK to not be OK. Break the silence; talk about it. Employees are much more willing to seek help if they know that leadership and their manager cares about them and has compassion for what they’re going through. It’s also important to be vulnerable. If you, as a leader, can talk about your own struggles, again, employees are far more likely to seek help.

Assess & Respond to Employee Needs

Conduct a survey that assesses employee needs, concerns, etc. Do they have the equipment, technology, and communication tools they need? What would it take for them to feel safe to return to the office/worksite? Do they need to adjust their schedule so that they can help children with remote learning? Not only are you getting valuable information that you can take action upon, but you're also sending a message that you care about and want to hear from them as to how you can support them. However, you must follow up with action – respond to the needs they’ve expressed. And, beyond any survey, managers should check regularly to offer ongoing support, making adjustments to employees’ workloads and hours, if needed.

For more benchmark data on mental health strategies - and much more, you can find the report here.

Create a Culture of Caring

Really start thinking about your culture. Is it one where employees truly feel valued and cared for and where they feel comfortable asking for help? Communication is key to achieving a culture of caring. Make sure they know that just because they are working remotely, they’re not expected to work nights and weekends. Encourage employees to take PTO. For those who are back at the worksite, consider offering a safe and comfortable place for employees to unwind and take a mental health break or have some privacy to attend to non-work matters.

Positive messages of support from leadership and more personal notes from a manager for a job well done will go a long way in creating that positive culture of caring.

Taking Action

There are opportunities now more than ever to build out or expand upon what your organization is doing today to better help your employees and their families. The following simple steps can greatly improve the impact of your wellbeing program and how your employees value the offerings.

  • Inventory – Simply put, what are you paying for today? What resources are currently embedded within your carrier partner relationships and available for use? Secondarily, what is the utilization of those resources and benefits? There are lots of different things that influence what kind of utilization reports you can get – whether you're fully insured or self-insured, whether your EAP is embedded or standalone, etc. – but you must get that data.
  • Talk to your carriers/partners – Before doing a time-consuming request for proposal (RFP), speak to your current vendors as to what the new and emerging services that are already embedded in your contract are. They may be there ready for use and you’re simply not aware of them. Also, ask if there are any buy-up options that are now available. Ever since COVID hit, the resources and services from these partners are changing dramatically and pretty quickly, so it’s especially important to speak to them about your options now.
  • Communication – Assess your benefits communication plan. No matter how robust and strong your wellbeing program is, if employees don't know about the benefits or how to access them, the program has no value. There are so many ways to reach employees in a meaningful and effective manner – far too many to cover here. However, here are two examples. The first is a “Do you know?” series. Each communication discusses a unique feature/offering of your benefits program. It’s an ongoing series that can be done via email or a postcard sent to the home or both! Another idea is providing a real-life example of how someone within your organization utilizes the plan and specific features of it; it’s essentially a testimonial for your program. Clearly, this would be done with no names, but when you make it real and you're using a coworker or colleague to share how they used the benefits, it does become very impactful.

Additionally, if there's been a vendor that’s been with your company for many years, there’s the potential that the best ideas or emerging options are not coming to you. The same may be true if you “inherited” a vendor. Ask them to present to you as if you were a new client. What would be available to a new client? Your business and employees could find great value and resources in asking these questions.

Looking for more information pertaining to employee mental health strategies? Check out our On-Demand webinar: Employee Mental Health & Wellbeing: Strategies to Create a Thriving Workforce.

We’ve obviously just scratched the surface here; however, by implementing this guidance, your wellbeing program can fairly quickly and easily be improved and, as a result, so too can your employees’ mental wellbeing.

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