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How can insurers help employers support their employees’ mental wellbeing?

Last year, I wrote about how the rumoured post-Coronavirus revolution on remote working may impact our mental health and the importance of companies investing in workplace wellbeing. Whilst this rumoured “ways of working” revolution now looks like a reality, the full impact on mental health is unknown.

Many firms have announced changes to their working arrangements and public commitments to changing the world of work (including our own Making Flexible Work campaign launched in April). As we adapt to new ways of working, employers will have a duty of care to manage their employees’ wellbeing during a period of further change.  

The overall mood of the nation is shaky after a year of lockdowns and uncertainty. LifeSearch recently published its Health, Wealth and Happiness report where 39% respondents said that their mental health has worsened since the start of the pandemic (compared to 14% who said it had improved). The overall Health, Wealth and Happiness Index is at its lowest levels in a decade and terms like languishing – the “neglected middle child of mental health”, where individuals are left feeling unmotivated and aimless – are becoming more commonplace at work. Bringing these statistics back to 2019 levels may take some time, but we must not overlook the role that our industry can play.

Insurers can undoubtedly support customers' ability to lead healthier working lives - the topic on an event we hosted this week. Mental wellbeing is a crucial part of this. Stress and anxiety are frequently referenced as reasons for poor health or wellbeing, and mental health is one fo the top reasons for protection and health insurance claims. Customers buy insurance to provide financial support and treatments when they are most needed, but what can insurers do to prevent mental ill-health in the first place?

Prevention is not a new concept, but its significance has become more apparent in the last year. Soaring waiting lists coupled with the disproportionate impact of the virus on those with underlying health conditions have shown the importance of protecting your mental and physical health before they become a problem.

Insurers already offer a wealth of services which offer additional support for mental and physical health, from counselling to virtual GPs. In the last year, the provision of remote health services has proved invaluable to customers, but how can firms encourage individuals to get the best use out of these services to proactively protect and improve their wellbeing? There is an onus on employers to highlight the benefits staff have access to at the moments they will engage, such as through the provision of Day One Statements or through allowing employees more choice in what benefits they can receive. But insurers also have a role to play to promote these services to increase engagement so that services can be used preventatively and not just in reaction to poor health, whether that is through increased personalisation of benefits or helping employers communicate support services clearly. A measure of success will be whether, for Mental Health Awareness Week in 2022, we will see the health, wealth and happiness of the nation bounce back to its pre-pandemic levels or perhaps even beyond.

Last updated 13/05/2021