Mental Illness Awareness Week: Supporting Employee Mental Health

Mental health is slowly becoming destigmatized thanks to public discussion and awareness advocacy campaigns such as Bell Let’s Talk and Mental Illness Awareness Week. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, 1 in 5 people in Canada personally experience a mental health problem or illness in any given year.

In honour of Mental Illness Awareness Week, we are highlighting how employers can play a part in supporting employees’ mental health. 

1. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), also known as Employee & Family Assistance Programs (EFAPs), are employer-sponsored programs designed to help employees and their families with work, health, and life challenges. EAPs offer free professional counseling services for employees, including but not limited to one-on-one mental health counselling, group counselling, family counselling, and life coaching. 

In addition to the above, popular EAP programs including the one offered by Morneau Shepell offer comprehensive help services such as health and fitness coaching, aid with family, legal, career, and financial issues, and assistance in developing effective work habits. There are also mental health-specific companies such as Inkblot Therapy whose services can either be used in the absence of an EAP or to supplement an existing EAP program. These programs focus on the mental health aspect of employee wellbeing, offering short-term and long-term video and in-person counselling for a variety of issues. 

While many workplaces already offer EAPs, they are sometimes underutilized due to a lack of knowledge around them. 

Increase Use of Your Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

Learn more about EAPs and how they can be of benefit to your employees.

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2. Employee Insurance Coverage and Other Employee Benefits

Mental health often requires time and money in the form of mental health days, counselling, and prescription drugs to maintain and heal. According to BHSF, 21% of employees receive dedicated mental health support from their employer, and an average of 8.4 sick days are taken each year due to a mental health problem. Employers can support their employees by considering providing unlimited paid sick days to alleviate the potential financial burden on employees. 

While many employers already offer health and dental benefits, employee paramedical coverage that includes therapy and counselling services is at times either not offered or capped at a limited amount in many workplaces. Traditional paramedical coverage often fails to best meet the needs of all employees, offering coverage in some areas irrelevant to an employee, and not enough coverage in the areas that they do need. According to MetLife, 60% of employees are willing to bear more of the cost in order to have a choice of benefits that meet their needs. 

Honeybee’s Heath Accounts offer a unique alternative or supplement to a traditional benefits plan for your employees, giving them the flexibility to spend benefit dollars in a way that best fits their life. With a Health Account, the traditional multi-category paramedical benefits structure is instead replaced with one lump-sum amount, allowing employees to spend their Health Account dollars on the things they actually need. For instance, if they have a lot of mental health expenses, but no expenses in other paramedical categories, they can allocate all benefit dollars towards supporting their mental health needs.

Honeybee Provides a Wide Variety of Coverage Options

Learn more about Health Accounts and other Honeybee offerings.

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3. Work/Life Balance

Are your employees taking enough time to relax and rewind? When it comes to working hours, studies show that more often than not, more is NOT more. According to a study by Gallup, nearly one fourth of full-time employees (23%) reported feeling burned out at work very often or always, while an additional 44 percent reported feeling burned out sometimes. The mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion of work burnout can result in decreased productivity, more work errors, higher employee turnover, and lower morale (and even resentment) in employees, also known as presenteeism. 

As an employer, you can set the tone by encouraging employees to take their vacation time and by avoiding accidentally creating a company culture that rewards frequent overtime.

What is Presenteeism in the Workplace (And How is it Affecting Your Business)?

Sure, your employees may be present, but that doesn’t mean it’s not costing you.

Learn more here.

4. Create positive team culture

Even with an EAP, a generous employee benefits package, and healthy work/life balance in place, it doesn’t mean much without a positive day-to-day workplace culture! The culture of a workplace can directly impact employees’ mental wellbeing and morale. While a degree of work stress is oftentimes expected and inevitable, there is a difference between intense focus along with challenging work versus having overworked and under-appreciated employees. Ask yourself the following:

  • Are management and your employees supportive of one another and work as a cohesive team? 
  • Is there an open line of communication? 
  • Would your employees comfortable bringing forward any genuine concerns or challenges they may have? 
  • Are your employees motivated, fulfilled by their work, and feel valued within the company?

How Honeybee Helps You Build a Strong Workplace Culture

Here are some tips on how to build and maintain a positive workplace culture.

Learn more here.

While Mental Illness Awareness Week creates open discussion around the topic of mental health struggles, supporting your employees, colleagues, friends and family in their mental health should be an ongoing commitment. It’s important to remember that mental health is always worth your time and attention, both in the workplace and beyond.