Why family mental health is important to your workplace

Providing parents and caregivers with mental wellbeing support should be a priority

Findings from Nuffield Health’s 2022 Healthier Nation Index revealed that 43% of parents are now more concerned about their children’s mental health due to the physical and emotional impact of the global pandemic.

Like financial stress, concern over our families’ physical and mental wellbeing can lead to a lack of sleep, reduced focus, stress, and low mood. These symptoms are likely to impact wellbeing and productivity in people’s personal and professional lives.

What’s more, parents dealing with these kinds of issues are more likely to take absence days from work at short notice to support their family.

Alerting parents and caregivers to relevant employee support at key times should be a business priority. For example, as September approaches, now is a good time to remind staff about existing mental health support, which can help families better manage any back-to-school nerves or worries.

Returning to the routines and rules of school can be a huge shift for children, young people, and their parents. Add to this the stresses, responsibilities, expectations, and worries children may have during this time, and difficulties or feelings of overwhelm can escalate. 

Finding ways for businesses to build family resilience and connectedness, as well as healthy coping strategies, is critical.

Online platforms, which provide digital, on-demand, health and wellbeing advice for young people and their caregivers, can be a useful employee benefit to consider. These provide education and tools to help families understand and manage during difficult times. Content is often based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), an effective and evidence-based way to reduce anxiety symptoms.

For example, Nuffield Health recently launched its ‘Supporting an Anxious Teen’ and ‘Supporting an Anxious Child’ programmes, in partnership with SilverCloud, offering support to parents and carers of anxious young people, with topics including Changing Anxiety and Facing Fears.

New parents may also face challenges like PTSD, postnatal depression or anxiety and may need professional support for their mental health. Postnatal depression is not only a concern for new mothers – but it can also affect fathers and other caregivers.

If you suspect your employee has experienced traumatic birth or perinatal mental health difficulties, remind them of any specialist trauma or perinatal support services they might have access to through work, like cognitive behavioural therapy or a specialist employee assistance programme (EAP).

EAPs assist employees in dealing with personal difficulties that might negatively affect their work performance, health, and wellbeing. EAPs include assessment, short-term counselling and referral services for employees and their immediate families.

If your organisation doesn’t have access to qualified mental health support, be prepared to deliver a list of specialist charities they can call for support instead.

Being a parent can be really lonely at work, so businesses should encourage social interaction and connections between parents as much as possible.

Remember, many will have sleepless nights and done hours of childcare before the working day has even started. So, having some way of connecting parents in your business, like an online forum, will give them an avenue to open up about tough experiences and share work/life balance ideas. The more channels provided, the more parents feel both visible, supported and appreciated.

Being a parent or caregiver is never predictable, so being clear about the workplace support available is essential. This doesn’t just mean highlighting mental health or financial help but also choices when it comes to adjusting working hours or physical working arrangements.

When parents can spend more time with their children and give them the stimulation and sustenance they need, it leads to positive outcomes, both in and outside the workplace.

Adopting employment practices and benefits which support your staff’s families help lessen stress, advocate a better work-life balance, and have further consequent gains for workplace productivity, engagement, and wellbeing.

By Gosia Bowling, National Lead for Mental Health, Nuffield Health.

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