How can a benefits strategy support employee mental health?


After two years of a global pandemic, and the resulting mental health crisis, it seems safe to say we’re all aware that wellbeing doesn’t stop at physical health. Our thoughts and feelings and mental state make an impact, too. This is why for the majority of employers, supporting mental health and wellbeing has become a necessity as we all adapt to the next normal in a rapidly evolving workplace.

How can a benefits strategy support employee mental health?

Companies care. Most organisations are working hard to take care of their teams and the last few decades, and especially the last two years, have borne witness to this. Massive efforts on the part of employers have been undertaken to improve employee wellbeing through fitness, diet and healthy-living initiatives. But to better support mental wellbeing for your whole team, you’ll need a strong benefits strategy.

Here are some ways to ensure your benefits strategy supports employee mental health.

1. Communicate clearly (and check in regularly)

Offering your employees the tools and resources they need to thrive (mentally and physically) as part of their benefits package is an important step. But tools are only useful when your people use them. Which means communicating what’s available clearly and on a regular basis. It also means ensuring that information about how to access resources is straightforward, easy to understand and available on-demand. Checking in regularly with your team on what’s working (and what’s not) can also be very helpful.

To ensure you get the most complete picture possible, you’ll want to make sure you offer a comfortable and stress-free way for employees to provide honest feedback (even if it’s constructive). Depending on your company culture, it may mean sending out an anonymous survey via email or setting up a suggestions box. 

2. Ensure all benefits are accessible and inclusive

Whatever the benefit, it’s vital that it be easy to use and inclusive of the people on your team’s unique experiences and circumstances. Because when people have trouble accessing, or are excluded from necessary benefits, such as medical care or financial planning tools, this can be damaging to their mental health and overall wellbeing.

Ease of use and inclusion is especially key in mental health and wellbeing as pervasive stigma, and difficulty accessing care continue to significantly impact people’s willingness to seek out the support they need. For many people who don’t have a formal diagnosis or may not feel comfortable seeking out in-person treatment, self-guided and digital-first options bridge gaps in care and can help them learn useful coping skills.

3. Have a plan to improve uptake

When you’re building your benefits strategy, it’s important to keep in mind that uptake for most benefits and rewards programmes is shockingly low, averaging in the single digits at many workplaces. So beyond providing the resources your employees need, you’ll need to address the often co-occurring issues of benefits fatigue and poor utilisation in your strategy.

How can you do that? Whenever possible, make sure benefits (and the pertinent information about them) are available via a central platform that can be accessed via mobile or desktop.

Tracking usage over time (while respecting employee privacy) is also useful, as it can offer insights into how your team is doing as a whole, and where you may need to add additional resources, or re-share details on how to access existing resources. Particularly when it comes to mental health resources, which people may be more hesitant to use, it’s key to promote available services from the top down.

When leaders use their voices to share their own struggles and how they face them, it opens the lines of communication and can help employees feel more comfortable asking for help when they need it.

The author is Dr Sophie Dix, VP of content at Koa Health. 

This article is provided by Koa Health.


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