Richard Gould, Director of Commercial at Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing, discusses How recruiters can support their employees’ mental health post Covid-19

Tackling mental health is a priority for many recruitment firms.  Even before Covid-19 arrived, the issue has been growing in importance. Last year, a report from CSG Talent entitled, Mental Health within the Recruitment Industry.  highlighted that 74% of recruiters suffered some form of mental health issue in the last year. Of these, 59% said they suffered from anxiety and 39% had experienced depression.

Mental health issues are not good for employees or business. The government’s ‘Thriving at Work’ report estimated the cost of poor mental health to UK business at between £33 billion and £42 billion a year. It also found that 300,000 people with a long-term mental health problem lose their jobs each year.

The coronavirus crisis has heightened mental health concerns. Recently, the Reward & Employee Benefits Association (REBA) highlighted one in four employers have increased spending on employee assistance programmes (EAPs) because of COVID-19 . One in eight employers (13%) also increased spending on their existing virtual GP service, while a further 8% have introduced virtual GPs for the first time.

Helping recruitment firms prevent and manage mental health issues is one of our key focus areas.

We recently partnered with the Recruitment and Employment Confederation and mental health charity Mind to host event focused on mental wellbeing in recruitment.  The event considered how can recruitment firms better support the mental wellbeing of their workforce? What policies and protection are needed? How can we stop treating mental health issues in a reactive, ‘band aid’ way and put in place preventative strategies that tackle root causes?  Here are some of our findings:

Prevention is better than cure

Mark Hashimi, Director of Strategic Wellbeing at Mind (Hammersmith and Fulham), said the first step to managing and preventing mental health issues is for companies to identify the stress triggers of employees and help employee become self-aware of the impact of stress and pressure.

This could be as simple as asking people what their stress triggers are, what signs do they notice when they are stressed?  What actions do they take to stay well?

Line managers need to be trained to spot the signs of stress and to ensure they are asking the right questions to take a proactive approach to managing stress.

Identifying the triggers of stress

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has identified six key triggers for stress which are a helpful checklist for companies to understand how their employees are feeling and responding to pressure.

  1. Demands – busy workloads, difficult work patterns and environment.
  2. Control – how much say the person has in the way they work.
  3. Support – what help and resources both internally and externally are available
  4. Relationships – this includes promoting positive working to avoid conflict.
  5. Role – whether people understand their role, purpose, and value within the organisation.
  6. Change – job insecurity and how change is managed and communicated.

Creating a strategy

  • The first step it to create a mental health policy. This would include the roles and responsibilities of staff managing mental health, the support for mental health within the organisation and processes for staff communication and how disclosures are managed.
  • Investment by the senior management team is essential. Any strategy must be led from the top. If senior management lead conversations about mental health, it can be powerful. It can reduce stigma and encourage staff to be more open too.
  • Train managers to be confident talking about mental health so they can be proactive and spot when a team member is stressed. Ensure they know what to say and where to sign post people to get additional support from their EAP service, mental health apps or other services.
  • Create regular staff surveys and forums, where employees can address concerns. If a company has information and data from staff, they can then create more personalised and tailored wellness plans.

Tips for managing mental health

Talk about mental health regularly at work

Encourage conversations about mental wellbeing, check in with people to find out how they are feeling and encourage people to be open about their issues.

Make the most of free resources

Mental Health at Work has free resources available for employers of every size, including policies, toolkits for different businesses, advice and guidance and case studies.

Think about technology and apps

There are also a range of technology apps that support mental health. At Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing we offer employees Havensrock Thrive, a practical, discrete app for employees to monitor their mental health to help prevent and manage stress, anxiety and other common mental health conditions. This includes access to specialist mental health support, if needed, with a dedicated mental health nurse at RedArc.

Listen to your staff

Listening is often the best support employers can give staff. Create space for them to talk and for you to listen. Take time to ask people how they are and ask again. Make conversations around mental health habitual.

Workshops, training, listen and learn lunches

Hosting mental health and wellbeing events can break down barriers and stigmas around mental health and demonstrate that mental wellbeing is important to the business.

Promote mindfulness

Encourage everyone to be mindful and conscious of mental health issues so they notice if their colleagues may not be feeling great and can sign post them to available support.

In recruitment, demands and pressures are always present; however, firms can change the level of support and investment they make in the mental wellbeing of their staff post Covid-19.

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