With 34 million people living in Canada, you might be surprised that 7 million of them will experience a mental health issue in their lifetime. Of that number, 4 million will experience mood and anxiety disorders specifically. Notably, 8 per cent of the 7 million will experience major depression at some point in their life. (source: Statistics Canada)
Mental Illness Affects the Workplace.
What might be even more alarming from an employer perspective is that 44 per cent of workers report they have or have had mental health issues. On any given week, at least 500,000 employed Canadians are unable to work due to mental illness. (source: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health). Almost $20 billion is reported from workplace losses with the leading cause of disability being mental illness. (source: Speech of the Hon. Michael Kirby on Workplace Mental Health, mentalhealthcommission.ca)
Knowing these statistics doesn't make solving the problem any easier. While employers are paying more attention to the importance of mental health awareness in the workplace, there are a few issues at play that work against their efforts -- 1) many employees don't feel comfortable or safe talking about mental health issues with their employers. In fact, 77 per cent of them fear it. 2) Even with all the efforts placed on promoting mental health awareness, a stigma about mental health still exists. This stigma creates a tremendous barrier for those who need to seek treatment.
What can we do?
Education is likely the most obvious and most effective way of raising awareness, eliminating the stigma and reducing the fear of seeking help.
Specific mental health promotion ideas include:
1) Remind employees about the Employee Assistance Program and that it is free for them to use as well as being a highly confidential service.
2) Revisit what's available through your benefits and wellness program. Are the opportunities to learn about sleep issues, tips for being more mindful or the mental health benefits or proper nutrition and regular exercise?
What is your benefits claims experience like? Are you seeing an increase in prescription drugs to treat anxiety, mood disorders and major depression? Are there changes in the number of short and or long-term disability claims? What fluctuations are you experiencing in absenteeism?
3) Encourage flexible work schedules to reduce stress. Work/life balance issues especially for working parents with elder-care commitments piled onto their plate can make for heightened levels of stress that can easily spill into the workplace. Trusting employees and providing greater flexibility is reported to create higher quality work and greater productivity.
4) Continue to promote mental health tips regularly and just in time. Everyone benefits from reminders and it doesn't need to take a lot of time or effort to do so. There are resources such as Work Place Strategies for Mental Health where you can sign up for free weekly newsletters. They include sharable video clips or tips about mental health that take as little as 5 minutes to watch or read.
5) Promote anti-stigma. One way to do this is by displaying the blue elephant that is the symbol for the "Elephant in the Room", national anti-stigma campaign. Displaying the blue elephant lets everyone know it's a safe place to speak about any mental health issues and that the employee coming forward will be treated with respect and dignity. On the MDSC site, there are key activities that help promote ways to reduce stigma. You can print off the free blue elephant poster too.
It affects us all.
Whether directly or indirectly, mental health issues of some form or another affect us all. Doctor-diagnosed mental health issues that last longer than 2 weeks in duration affect 1 in 3 people. These numbers may be low given the fear people have about sharing their mental health issues. What employers might see is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to recognizing the prevalence of mental health issues that might exist in their workplace. While it might be difficult to know what you're facing, it is easy to promote mental health awareness with so many free education tools and resources available.
We'd like to work with you to examine your claims experience. Data, even at an aggregate level, can tell a powerful story and offer insights into ways you can support your employees. We invite you to contact us and further the conversation. We have decades of experience and many valuable resources that we're ready to put to work for you. We're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
Some say that employees aren't motivated by money alone and that a competitive wage doesn't solely dictate the level of productivity and retention in an organization. That being the case, some employers focus on their social responsibility or volunteer efforts to attract and retain key talent. Others emphasize their unique value proposition and well-honed brand cache to attract the optimal candidate pool.
While all their efforts are important, there are still a host of good reasons to provide regular reminders of an employee's total compensation picture, including information about base salary and all the other benefits employees receive through their employer.
When added together and provided in a concise and comprehensive package, a total compensation statement tells a compelling story that adds some serious weight when employers get down to discussing the monetary value they invest in their workforce.
Before we address these reasons, let's take a closer look at what we mean by a total compensation statement -- also known as a total rewards statement.
What is a total compensation statement?
An employee's pay includes far more than just base salary and it can't hurt for an employer to provide reminders of such at strategic points during the year. It is a written document that provides a full overview of the benefits that an employer provides.
A total compensation statement should provide a clear picture of how much and to what extend an employer is investing in an employee.
What picture does it paint?
A total compensation statement may include a list of benefits and perks that extend far beyond an employee's base salary. While not every employer is able to offer everything on this list, what has been included here provides a collection of what commonly makes-up a total compensation statement.
Once an employer has gathered all the information they need to produce a statement and determined the value associated with each aspect, it is important to ensure that each statement is personalized and specific to the employee.
Whether an employer builds the total compensation statement in-house or outsources the exercise to a third party vendor, there is no small amount of effort required, but the pay-off can be substantial.
We're here to help.
There are many ways to communicate these important messages and we're well positioned to help you explore your options. We ready to have an introductory conversation with you or dive right in and help you get started. We invite you to contact us. As always, we're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
Some may wonder how much an employer should be expected to take on when it comes to educating employees. The question should also include -- what is the cost of not seizing the opportunity to educate where it benefits the overall well-being and productivity of their workforce?
With November marking Canada's financial literacy month, it is a great time to be reminded of so many important financial best practices that everyone should keep top of mind -- not just when November rolls around.
What the season brings...
November is the gateway to a season of spending and perhaps some overindulgences with festive celebrations, decorating, shopping and entertaining. It all takes its toll on the ability to stick to a monthly budget. It also may create tension when folks recognize that they didn't build up enough savings to prepare for the costs they incur at this time of year. Perhaps now, more than ever, it is important to be reminded of the value of knowing more about financial best practices and what it means to the security and comfort of one's future.
Returning to the question of why should employers feel a sense of responsibility for educating employees about financial literacy, it comes down to who has the best ability to positively influence the people they connect with for several hours a day, several days a week. The answer is clear -- an employer. The workplace provides the venue to offer key financial information about budgeting, saving, investing and debt management at a time when employees need it most. It is quite similar to what schools are able to do with students -- offer the right education at the right time.
Some employers have more of an ability and an appetite to provide financial education than others. The good news is that it doesn't have be costly or resource draining to build an employee's financial awareness arsenal. Also promising is that employees have a readiness to grow their financial understanding. Study after study reinforces employees' level of stress and the negative consequences that result by way of reduced engagement and productivity,
Employees want the information and the workplace provides an easy way for them to learn without necessarily needing to even leave their desks.
Over the course of the last few years, I've written several blogs on financial literacy in the workplace. While there are endless resources available, I thought it helpful to include 5 links so you don't have to spend any time searching.
How to deliver financial education?
There are many ways to share information from free online tools to worksheets, lunch 'n learns seminars and virtual meetings and recorded webinars. Everyone will have a different way to absorb information best, so it is helpful to provide different education methods that also factor in demographic differences. Someone in their 20s might not have any interest in saving for retirement, but they certainly might pay attention if there is an ability to learn new ways to repay student loans or save for a vacation.
One area that often tends to be overlooked is the financial coaching offered through Employee Assistance Programs as well as free education sessions offered through some insurance providers. Several providers offer free online tools and resources where they will come into the workplace and provide free financial education sessions.
Who is leaving money on the table?
One of the biggest challenges employers face involves employees not taking advantage of employer matching within defined contribution pension plans. Employees have various reasons for not voluntarily contributing to their pension plan, but whatever the reason, they are leaving free money on the table and walking away from a gift their employer is offering them. Financial education sessions targeted at helping employees think about their future can make a tremendous difference. It comes down to making information easy to understand and relatable to each audience.
For employers who jump in and embrace the opportunity to educate employees about financial literacy, the return on investment is 3 to 1. We know money problems affect stress and stress impacts productivity and absenteeism. Where no formal financial education exists in the school system, employers can seize the opportunity to make a much needed difference.
We focus on more than just retirement product education, we think about the things that matter most to you and are well positioned to help employers support their employees achieve financial success. We invite you to contact us. As always, we're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
Dave Dickinson, B.Comm, CFP, CLU, CHFC
Experienced Benefits Specialist ready to optimize your group benefits and pension plans.