Mental Health Awareness Week

Adrian Matthews, Head of Employee Benefits at MetLife UK

An estimated nine in ten* UK adults have experienced high or extreme stress in the last year with one in five needing to take time off work due to poor mental health. While it’s common for people to feel worried or anxious, it can spiral and impact an individual’s mental health which could lead to burnout.

With a record 2.8m people in the UK currently off work as a result of ill health** employers must be equipped with the right policies and benefits to support their employees.

Adrian Matthews, Head of Employee Benefits at MetLife UK, shares his three top tips for helping employers relieve symptoms of stress and anxiety that could be experienced by their employees:

1. Encourage regular annual leave

Presenteeism can prove challenging as staff feel unable to take annual leave with the fear of an increasing workload on their return. Some employees may also find it difficult to switch off. Employers must watch carefully for this type of employee, especially if they are continuing to work long hours. Not only can this lead to extreme burnout, but it can also increase the number of sick days an employee takes as they try to push through mental or physical strain at work. Helping employees plan their annual leave throughout the year and reiterating the importance of taking an extended break, can be a small step with huge benefits to working culture and the happiness of employees. 

2. Keep an eye on burnout

As employees face home and work life challenges, they may begin to experience elongated stress that could eventually lead to burnout. Our research found that 28% of employees have even pushed through sickness at work despite needing to take time off because they didn’t want to miss work, which could not only impact their wellbeing, but effectiveness at work too. Being aware of changes to an employee’s productivity is vital. Managers need to be vigilant when monitoring how individuals interact or show signs of disengagement. 

With sick days at work hitting the highest level in 10 years and a main factor sighted being mental illness and stress, employers must show support and set up alternative methods to enable employees to return to the office after a sick period or holiday without immediately being met with an uptick in stress due to their workload. A simple method to avoid this is for employers to encourage teams to share an email the day before employees return to work with any updates and actions that happened during their time off.

3. Valuing benefits packages

Providing the right benefits package is essential to retain and support an engaged, happy workforce and will make sure employees feel supported in and out of the workplace. A business is only as strong as its people so investing in these policies, as well as implementing them into the work culture will help avoid stress and anxiety becoming a larger problem.

Employers should offer 24/7 access to an employee assistance programme (EAP) which is designed to help employees with their work, health, and wellbeing. This can range from counselling to financial wellbeing support. MetLife offers employees a virtual Wellbeing Hub that effectively engages employees through financial, mental and physical wellbeing including confidential counselling or by supporting an employee through financial difficulty.