Four ways to know if your company faces a mental health crisis

The drive to thrive: attract and retain top talent

With an uncertain winter ahead, the pandemic is far from over. And even with the easing of many restrictions, we remain on the brink of a mental health crisis. 

Over half (54%) of employees in Ireland told us their mental health has been affected by the pandemic, with many struggling with anxiety and depression, and one in 10 saying they have had suicidal thoughts. This is far from business as usual.  

These findings came from our A Drive to Thrive mental health snapshot, part of our rolling Brave New Era research on employee health and wellbeing. This pulse survey found morale and motivation continue to slide, with trust in employers waning and many employees looking to move to a different company.

Understand the scale of the risk

The risk is significant for employers -- mental health challenges are one of the leading causes of sick leave and disability in the workplace. 

Even for employees who don’t fall ill and need extended time away from work, it’s an issue as they may find their productivity and interest suffer. Overall, that poses a concern for retention, especially in a turbulent jobs market. 

Likewise, employees on the move are more likely to choose an employer that offers a healthy work-life balance and robust health and wellbeing support -- our research found that’s especially true of those under 34 and employees living with disabilities. 

What can dedicated HR professionals do to assess and mitigate the risk of the mental health crisis in their workplace? Below we set out four key ways you can evaluate current mental health and wellbeing across your workforce and understand if a crisis looms in your business.

1. Harness the power of smart insights 

Make the most of the data available to you to spot trends in employee mental health and wellbeing. If you have an employee assistance programme (EAP) in place, for example, monitor its rate of use month by month. 

Likewise, you can mine rich insight on mental health from data on absenteeism, attrition and productivity. If possible, consider running pulse or ad hoc surveys on mental health, or incorporate questions on mental health and wellbeing into current surveys. 

Bringing all these insights together can help you paint a picture of mental health issues across the business, to observe how that changes over time and to react to it with smart interventions. 

2. Gather grassroots info from trained colleagues

One strikingly useful move employers can make is to roll out peer-to-peer support programmes, in which employees are trained to offer support to any colleague who may be experiencing stress, anxiety or other issues.

At laya healthcare, we offer the in-depth REACH Mental Health First Responders course, during which expert counsellors train selected employees as first responders for any mental health issue or emergency in the workplace.  

Once trained, your company’s Mental Health First Responders can offer immediate care to anyone developing a mental health issue or experiencing a personal crisis, including how to assess risk and help someone in difficulty get the help they need. They can keep you updated on mental wellbeing across the business – offering you further smart insights, but without breaching confidentiality, of course.

Discover the most up-to-date stats and insights on employee mental health and wellbeing

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3. Level up your manager engagement

Ongoing consultation with managers and team leaders across the business around mental health is vital on two fronts. Not only can they offer regular informed updates on morale, motivation and how their team members are faring, but they also need to be able to communicate clearly about their own mental health and any support they need. 

Consider including a mental health update as a highly recommended if not mandatory piece of any manager one-to-one or team meetings or in weekly, monthly or quarterly updates to senior leaders. 

By maintaining an acute focus on mental health from the top down and the bottom up across the organisation, you’re much more likely to avoid a sudden and unanticipated crisis. 

Not only that, you’ll be actively countering stigma around mental health, which continues to persist across workplaces. In fact, 41% of employees told us the stigma remains in their workplace, including an eye-watering 59% of people in manufacturing.

4. Conduct a detailed risk assessment 

In recent months, an extraordinary 46% of referrals to our Occupational Health team have been for reasons related to mental health. 

Given the evident stark need for support, we have united with our expert partners to develop a unique Occupational Mental Health Assessment Service that brings more clinical understanding and guidance to individual and workplace supports. This enables you to manage mental health risk in a proactive way. 

Across the spectrum of mental health issues, from people reporting minor symptoms to those who develop significant mental illness, our occupational health practitioners can offer clear and transparent recommendations along an intervention timeline.

Some employees may be sufficiently helped by a brief consultation and referral to a service such as our 24/7 Mental Wellbeing Support Programme (EAP). Others may need a complex clinical assessment or even psychological treatment and care.

Regardless, our teams are here to support you and enable a transparent and outcome-oriented sickness absence management process, in which the employee stays fully involved.

Get the full report

Discover the most up-to-date stats and insights on employee mental health and wellbeing in our latest research snapshot.

Laya Healthcare’s A Brave New 2.1 Research was conducted by Spark — The Strategic Insight Agency. The Research involved 1,000 online questionnaires with employees and 68 online questionnaires with HR leaders. The research was conducted in August and September 2021.  This research follows two previous waves of Brave New Era research and was commissioned to provide content on how opinions and behaviours are changing.