Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen awareness around mental health and wellbeing continue to grow, resulting in a rising expectation among the workforce that employers take steps to support and protect employees’ mental health.
Likewise, many employers are now realising it’s in their best interests to help employees to improve their mental wellbeing. As well as helping to attract and retain talent by offering benefits employees value, supporting mental health can help improve productivity, boost performance, and reduce absenteeism.
But while dedicated mental health supports are important, employers should look to support their workforce’s all-round wellbeing – with benefits to help employees improve both their physical and mental health. These elements are often treated as separate issues but, in many cases, supporting one will naturally help improve the other.
There are many employee benefits you can offer to help improve your workforce’s overall wellbeing, including both physical and mental health. Here are a few benefits you might want to consider.
1. Health Insurance
Health insurance is the most desired employee benefit among the Irish workforce – alongside pensions – while in the UK, 43% of 2,000 employees surveyed said they valued health insurance as a benefit, second only to contributory pension schemes.
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 public health services.
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.
For example, in Ireland, all three health insurance providers offer a 24/7 helpline, allowing members to speak with a counsellor about anything from mental health to financial or legal issues. They also offer an online GP service, helping employees to get medical advice quickly, and without needing to visit the doctors in person. Many plans also include a set number of counselling sessions – such as through Laya, who offer up to five face-to-face counselling sessions on certain schemes.
Many corporate health insurance policies also include resources and supports to help employees have a healthier lifestyle – such as nutrition advice, resources to encourage exercise, and help quit smoking.
There are a lot of different plans available in the UK and Ireland, so choosing the right one for your business can be difficult. If you’d like support with finding your ideal plan, get in touch with our health insurance advisors at Eppione.
2. Health Cash Plans
With bills rising across the board, any financial support you can offer to help employees care for their mental and physical wellbeing is likely to be appreciated by your workforce. 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 you can select a plan that meets both your budget and your workforce’s needs.
Employees can typically claim back the cost of things like dental treatment and check-ups; optical treatment and purchases, including contact lenses and eye tests; health screenings; wellbeing treatments such as massages; physiotherapy; and counselling. However, the specific areas covered will depend on your provider, your level of cover, and whether you’re based in the UK or Ireland.
]f your 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 you do have a health insurance plan in place, a health cash plan may cover a number of areas not included in your policy – so it may be worth offering both simultaneously.
3. Employee Assistance Programmes
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 referrals 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 wellbeing.
In some cases, an EAP service may be included with your health insurance, life insurance or income protection, so be sure to check what you’re already entitled to before signing up to a new programme. However, if this isn’t the case, it’s recommended you offer access to an EAP as a basic employee benefit to support your workforce with any personal issues.
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 your programme, be sure to communicate what’s available and how to access the programme to your employees.
4. Gym Memberships
Encouraging your employees to exercise more frequently through a gym membership can help improve both their physical and mental wellbeing – while supporting them to reduce their costs at a time when bills are rising.
There are a few options for offering gym membership as an employee benefit.
Firstly, you could fully fund your employees’ 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.
Alternatively, you can offer a set contribution towards a gym membership, whereby both you, as the employer, and the employee make payments towards the membership fee. This might be suitable for businesses with a lower employee benefits budget.
Or, if you can’t currently afford to make contributions to gym memberships, you 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.
Other options include organising regular fitness sessions for your workforce either at your workplace or in a local gym or fitness studio – or, if you have the resources available, opening your own gym at your workplace for employees to use around their working hours.
The options available to you will depend on your operating country and budget. In most cases, the above will work best as part of a flexible benefits package, whereby employees can opt into the schemes depending on their needs and preferences.
5. Meditation and Mindfulness
Helping your employees to practice meditation and mindfulness can deliver several mental wellbeing benefits, including reduced stress and increased focus and emotional intelligence.
Again, there are a few different options available for employers. You might consider hosting mindfulness and meditation sessions, either at your workplace or offsite. There are many courses and trainers available to guide these sessions, so have a look at what’s available in your area.
However, not everyone may be comfortable practicing meditation in a group setting with their colleagues, so it may be worth exploring alternative options. For example, some health insurance policies include resources and limited cover for mindfulness and meditation courses, so check what’s already available to your employees through your existing benefits and ensure your workforce is aware of their eligibility.
Online resources are also available, such as online courses and apps like Headspace and Calm. You might consider offering discounted or fully funded access to these resources for your employees as a flexible benefit option – so those who are interested in learning more about mindfulness and meditation can do so in their own time, and in their own home.
The options for supporting employees’ mental and physical wellbeing 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 and Irish markets.
It all comes down to what works for your unique workforce and business. Before committing to new benefits, consult with your employees on what they need and what support they will find the most valuable. When it comes to health and wellbeing, one size will not fit all, so offering flexible benefits may be the best way to ensure your benefits are truly tailored to the needs of individuals.
Eppione’s HR & Employee Benefits platform makes enabling and managing these benefits and allowances simple. Employees can view, select, amend and remove their benefits easily on their desktop or mobile, with a flexible benefits simulator to help employees experiment with different benefit mixes and costs.
If you’d like to find out more about Eppione, drop us a message below and we’ll be in touch to arrange a demo.