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The importance of employee mental health benefits

During the hiring process, business owners are generally looking for someone who has the right combination of skills and work ethic. But employees must also have their own list of expectations – over half of all workers in the UK have expressed that they need employers to focus more on mental health as part of […]

During the hiring process, business owners are generally looking for someone who has the right combination of skills and work ethic. But employees must also have their own list of expectations – over half of all workers in the UK have expressed that they need employers to focus more on mental health as part of their employee benefits. Here, we take a look at how employers can offer more for their staff in terms of looking after their physical and emotional well-being.  

1.      Health and wellness

A recent article by Forbes highlighted that people want their employers to offer more in terms of mental health and wellness. It makes sense; we spend so much of our time at work, it’s understandable that we want that place to be a healthy environment for us!

The idea of wellness and health stretches across so many potential perks employers can provide, including:

  • Mental health days — The Mental Health Foundation has posited that the UK workforce could benefit from an allowance of two mental health days per year. This is based on the fact that, as a nation, we are chronic over-workers who tend to fall foul of presenteeism; showing up for work sick or working far beyond our contracted hours in fear that taking a sick day or leaving on time makes us look lazy or less dedicated to our employers.

    It is worth considering that while mental health problems are cited as the fourth most common reason for a sick day, 45 per cent of people said they would make up a different reason for their absence in the event of it being mental health related. This stigma means that mental health sick days are probably a lot more common than we realise. By having two days allowance specifically for mental health and wellbeing, employees will be assured by the fact that their employers are taking their mental as well as physical health on board.
  • Health sessions such as yoga or meditation — Fitting in a session at the gym before or after work can be a pain. But, by providing the sessions in the hour before or after work, it’s much easier for employees to plan their exercise around their work life without worrying about running late from the gym to work!

    Plus, these sessions can be a great way to manage stress within the workplace, allowing employees time away from their desks to unwind for a moment.
  • Cycle to Work scheme — This next one tackles the need for health benefits and a dedicated response to greener methods. The Cycle to Work scheme is a great way to help employees lower their fuel costs, their carbon footprint, as well as increasing their fitness and health. By offering the Cycle to Work scheme at your workplace, your employees can buy a bike, cycle equipment, and cycle clothing tax-free and pay it off through salary sacrificed over the year. All types of bike are included in the scheme too – from electric mountain bikes to specialist road bikes.

2.      Flexible working

Rigid working hours can sometimes be a hinderance, after all, life happens every day of the week. Fitting in family life, appointments, events — simply having a few hours leeway on a morning or evening can really make a difference in terms of planning things like doctor’s appointments. In fact, according to a 2017 survey by Timewise, 60 per cent of UK professionals wanted to have a range of flexible working options available to them, and 70 per cent said their managers needed to support this need for a work/life balance.

3.      Seasonal perks

Interestingly, employees are open to the idea of giving up perks in exchange for seasonal-specific perks. For example, while a Reed survey found 40 per cent of UK workers valued free tea and coffee as their best perk, over a third said they’d swap up those precious cups of tea and coffee in the summer for free ice cream or having a more relaxed summer dress code.

With this in mind, it’s clear the British public really hate to waste the rare sunshine over the summer. Employers can tailor perks to suit these special days! Free ice-cream on particularly sunny days can make for a great vibe in the office.

Summer hours are particularly popular for workers, with one study finding 41 per cent of workers hoping for this perk to be introduced. Kellogg’s Manchester office has run such a scheme since last year, where its employees are allowed to leave at 12pm on Fridays if they have already completed a full week’s worth of working hours.  According to Kellogg’s UK HR director, allowing their employees this enviable perk encourages them to work 21 per cent harder.

It’s clear then that a happy worker is a hard worker. What perks would you like to see in your workplace?  

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