A report from the Health & Safety Executive highlighted that in terms of occupation, averaged 2017/18-2019/20, higher rates of stress, depression or anxiety were found in professional occupations such as finance. And a new wave of poor mental health is facing the sector as employers and employees alike get to grips with what the new work/life balance should look like with the increase in home working following the pandemic.
The good news is that well-thought-out employee benefits can help employers to support the workforce. So, with Blue Monday upon us, to support employees who may be struggling today, or at any other time of the year, here are a few benefits for businesses to consider.
Physical and mental health are often discussed as separate issues, but in reality, they’re intrinsically linked. Poor physical health can often lead to deteriorating mental well-being, especially when faced with long waiting times for treatment. Likewise, people suffering with mental health issues may be less likely to care for their physical well-being, leading to further health problems.
Supporting employees to access healthcare can help foster a healthier, happier workforce. Corporate health insurance policies often come with a wide range of benefits to help members live a healthier lifestyle, get diagnosed sooner, and access the treatment they need more quickly than through the NHS.
Of course, this includes a wide array of physical conditions – from back pain to cardiac issues, and from maternity care to cancer. But many health insurance policies also include various supports for mental health, such as counselling and addiction support.
Health Cash Plans
With a health cash plan, employees can claim back some or all of the cost of certain routine treatments and appointments that aren’t covered by health insurance.
Employers generally pay a monthly fee for each employee to be on the scheme, and each individual can then reclaim their expenses up to a set limit. There are usually different tiers available, so businesses can select a plan that meets both their budget and the workforce’s needs.
Employees can typically claim back the cost of things like dental treatment and check-ups; health screenings; well-being treatments such as massages; physiotherapy; and counselling.
If a business is currently unable to fund health insurance for your workforce, a health cash plan can offer some support to help employees care for their physical and mental health. However, even if businesses do have a health insurance plan in place, a health cash plan may cover a number of areas not included in the policy – so it may be worth offering both simultaneously.
Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs)
EAPs are one of the most common benefits offered by employers. These programmes offer confidential, professional support for a wide range of personal issues, including alcohol and substance misuse, financial or legal problems, stress and burnout, and mental health problems.
Many offer a referral service to help direct employees to the support they need, while also offering direct counselling and treatment. Often, EAP services are also available to other family members in the employee’s household – helping to support their whole family’s health and well-being.
While many companies offer an EAP, employees are often unaware that it’s available to them – either because they were never told or have forgotten. So, to get the most out of the programme, be sure to communicate to employees what’s available and how to access the programme.
Encouraging employees to exercise more frequently through a gym membership can help improve both their physical and mental well-being.
There are a few options for offering gym membership as an employee benefit:
- Fully fund employee gym memberships such as through an employee benefit that grants access to various gyms and fitness brands, or by agreeing a corporate membership with a specific gym.
- A set contribution towards a gym membership, whereby both the employer and employee make payments towards the membership fee. This might be suitable for businesses with a lower employee benefits budget.
- Make contributions to gym memberships. Businesses can allow employees to pay for their memberships through a salary sacrifice scheme. Employees can choose their own gym, and the monthly charges are deducted from their pre-tax salary to save them money on tax contributions.
Meditation and Mindfulness
Helping employees to practice meditation and mindfulness can deliver several mental well-being benefits, including reduced stress and increased focus and emotional intelligence.
Businesses could consider:
- Hosting mindfulness and meditation sessions, either at the workplace or offsite. There are many courses and trainers available to guide these sessions, so have a look at what is available in your area.
- Offering individual mindfulness and meditation courses as part of health insurance plans
- Providing access to online resources, such as online courses and apps like Headspace and Calm. Businesses might consider offering employees discounted or fully funded access to these resources.
Developing a bespoke plan
The options for supporting employees’ mental and physical well-being are endless. With the growing focus on wellness, companies are constantly coming up with new and innovative ways to support their employees, while new employee benefits continue to be introduced in the UK.
However, developing and managing an employee benefits platform can be a challenge, especially if your business is operating in more than one country. Consequently, it’s important for companies to consult with specialists such as Eppione to help design and manage a fit-for-purpose employee benefits offering.
When it comes to health and well-being, one size will not fit all, so offering flexible benefits may be the best way to ensure benefits are truly tailored to the needs of individuals. And with the finance industry currently getting to grips with a new way of working post the pandemic (which may see a further increase in anxiety, depression and stress), financial companies looking to recruit and retain top talent, while looking after the wider workforce, will provide a range of employee benefits to support their workforce during these challenging times.
David Kindlon is the CEO of Eppione.
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