Employers up mental health support during covid-19 lockdown

Employers reach out with flexible working and increased communications during pandemic crisis

Employers have been successful in reaching out and supporting colleagues during the covid-19 lockdowns offering Employee Assistance Programmes, flexible working and increased communications, according to research from Aon.

Releasing the results of its survey Adjusting Total Rewards Programmes and Workforce Strategies in Response to covid-19 in Mental Health Awareness Week (18-24 May), Aon said 79% of employers in the UK and Europe have enhanced or further promoted their Employee Assistance Programmes since the start of the covid-19 pandemic, while 57% offer specific mental health strategies.

The research was conducted by Aon’s Reward Solutions Practice between 7-10 April and gained responses from 1,889 organisations around the world, including more than 800 responses from the UK and mainland Europe.

Almost three quarters (73%) of organisations have offered flexible working hours for employees with young children, while 36% have provided a temporary increase in sick leave entitlement. Furthermore, 87% of employees said communications from senior leaders have increased, and 67% said their employers have equipped managers to better communicate with their staff.

 Other adjustments include the ability to use sick leave for quarantine, or to care for children when they are off from school (in addition to what is required by law), allowances to pay for work-from-home equipment and special arrangements for vulnerable groups, such as employees with chronic conditions, as well as additional insurance coverage or allowances to pay for childcare.

Charles Alberts, head of health management at Aon, said: “The theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is kindness – which is timely and appropriate given the varied challenges that we are all faced with at the moment. There are signs of increased empathy and kindness from employers towards their employees in such difficult times.

“The pulse survey shows that nearly 80% of organisations have either reached out to their people to make sure they are aware of the services in their Employee Assistance Programmes, or they have enhanced the programmes. It takes pre-emptive thought, effort and resources for employers to do this, not least when faced with so many different operating challenges.

“It’s not always easy for organisations to be ‘kind’. Every business has its own corporate realities, and in line with this, managers are expected to drive business performance. While empathy and kindness can drive increased engagement and loyalty, there can be a conflict with delivering more immediate results.

“Yet, a basis of a good mental health strategy is ensuring people, especially managers, have the right qualities – being supportive, empathetic, open and available. Having the right support structures in place and creating a culture where people feel able to reach out for help when they need it is vital.

Another study carried out by the group in January, the UK Benefits and Trends Survey 2020, found that 94% of employers believe employees’ expectations of their work experience are changing. Of those, 88% believe staff expected better awareness and handling of mental health issues, while 72% believe a better approach to diversity and inclusion is expected.

Alberts added: “The good news is that kindness is already part and parcel of many Corporate Social Responsibility and Diversity & Inclusion strategies and can also be encouraged through infrastructure such as Appreciation schemes. As we have seen from our research, covid-19 has prompted a more human element to work, through better communication and offering flexibility. We now have an opportunity to consider ways we can make a kinder, more empathetic approach to our employees’ ‘business as usual’, far beyond the current pandemic.”

How to Thrive in a Virtual World webinar

ESG Clarity is proud to be media partner to City Hive’s upcoming webinar to mark Mental Health Awareness Week and to support those in the investment industry. City Hive is running the webinar How to Thrive in a Virtual World on Tuesday 19 May at 12.00 BST.

The webinar will be led by international speaker and commentator Christine Brown-Quinn, and will cover:

  • How to foster the important relationships you need to be successful (without ever meeting up in person)
  • Commonly held beliefs about virtual working, which are simply not true
  • How to overcome the key challenges inherent in this emergent environment
  • Top tips to running an effective virtual meeting
  • Simple yet powerful strategies to enable you to progress your career virtually

Register your interest following this link, please click here.


Natalie Kenway

Natalie is editor in chief at MA Financial covering ESG Clarity, Portfolio Adviser and International Adviser. She was previously global head of ESG insight for ESG Clarity and has been an investment journalist...