Employers and employees out of sync on mental health issues

by John Hilton03 Nov 2016
There are significant differences in the priorities of Australian employees and employers when it comes to workplace health and wellness, according to a workplace study by leading life insurer MetLife.
 
The study found employers don’t place as much importance on health issues such as depression (6% employer v 32% employee ranking) and stress and anxiety (11% employer v 29% employee ranking) – even though these are all key concerns for employees.

The Employee Benefit Trends Study (EBTS) involved 300 Australian company managers and over 500 Australian full-time employees towards key employee benefit trends and issues.

Australian employers were asked what the greatest health fears for their staff were and they responded by ranking medical problems (88%) over their emotional health (69%) and lifestyle issues (62%).
 
This contrasted with the fact that 84% of Australian workers worry more about their emotional wellbeing, compared with 70% who are concerned with medical issues.
 
MetLife Australia CEO, Deanne Stewart said it was crucial for employers to align their benefits with employee interest and identify ways to create a more inclusive, human-centred work environment.

“As working hours grow longer, and associated stress and anxiety is on the rise, employers need to acknowledge employees’ mental health concerns and address these head on,” said Stewart.
 
“While it’s encouraging to see more employers offering health and wellness programs, our research shows that these are often misaligned to staff needs.”

The results also found employers recognise the benefits of offering wellness programs to staff, include increased staff retention, employee engagement and improved productivity.
 
However, the most widely offered health and wellness programs, such as flu shots (42%) and employee assistance programs (42%), did not have a high correlation with what employees are interested in (21% and 23%, respectively).

Offering solutions to improve mental health and overall wellbeing could be a major opportunity for Australian employers, according to the research.
 
Second only to salary, a reduction in work stress is an important motivator (31%) for Australians looking for a new job.

Stewart added that in a fiercely competitive employment market, companies need to stand out and do all they can to attract and retain top talent.
 
“This might mean considering benefit solutions that focus on improving staff resilience, relieving work stress and providing mental health programs that offer support in the workplace,” Stewart.
 
“These types of initiatives can help to build a more positive workplace which can in turn boost staff satisfaction and overall productivity.”

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