During Mental Health Awareness Week (10-16 May) Howden Employee Benefits and Wellbeing reports that asset management firms are not doing enough to look after the mental wellbeing of their workforce, despite investing in other high value insurance products for employees.

Howden surveyed over 160 asset management firms to benchmark their employee benefits, wellbeing and reward programmes, investigate their plans and find out if their existing benefits are still fit for purpose given the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

They found 88% have no formal wellbeing strategy in place, with over a third (35%) saying they plan to address this and create a wellbeing strategy in the next twelve months. Employee mental health and building resilience were identified as the key priorities as firms plan to return to the workplace post-lockdown.

Most firms are taking a reactive rather than preventative approach to mental health. The number one provision for employee mental health support is through Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs), but Howden points out such services are typically underutilised.

In contrast, asset management firms typically offer highly valued benefits as standard such as Private Medical Insurance (PMI) which is offered by 99% of firms, Life Insurance (88%) and Income Protection (73%) – benefits which are more generous than many other sectors.

Howden says employers need to have mental health and wellbeing on their agenda given the rising numbers of people are suffering and to focus on prevention, as well as the cure, as part of a robust wellbeing strategy.

The Health and Safety Executive[i] highlights that over recent years the rate of self-reported work-related stress, anxiety or depression has increased with 2019/20 significantly higher than the previous year. In 2019/20 work-related stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 51% of all work-related ill health and 55% of all days lost due to work-related ill-health.

Robbie Weston, Executive Director, Asset Management and Workplace Savings at Howden says, “Employee wellbeing has tended to be overlooked by many asset management firms in favour of high value insurance benefits, but as we move beyond the Covid-19 it must become a priority.

“The pandemic has exacerbated wellbeing issues and there is now growing concern around people’s mental health, especially when it comes to stress and anxiety brought on by remote working, managing work/life balance, financial worries and fears over job security.

“However, our research found that when it comes to supporting mental health, we tend to see a high reliance on reactive solutions such as support services like EAPs, but often employees don’t know that these services exist as there is no formal strategy or communication, so they tend to be under-used.

“We urge asset management firms to take a proactive approach and consider creating a dedicated wellbeing strategy. This can focus on specific measures to support mental wellbeing such as providing mental health training for employees and managers and creating a mental health programme that is clearly communicated to all employees, so they know what support is available and where to go for it. We’re also seeing increased demand for initiatives such as helping employees manage sleep issues.

“Running awareness campaigns and tying up with weeks such as Mental Health Awareness week and creating a calendar of events around mental wellbeing can also be highly beneficial. These proactive measures can help create a culture of support around mental wellbeing and break the stigma that often surrounds mental health.”

Howden has launched a specialist service to help firms create and implement a comprehensive wellbeing strategy, tailored to the unique needs of their workforce. This service can provide essential support to asset management firms in readiness for September, when most staff are expected to return to the workplace.

A copy of the research report, ‘Employee Benefits and Wellbeing in the Asset Management Sector’, is available here: https://view.publitas.com/howden-uk-group/asset-management-survey-report-april-2021

Lisa Baker

Author Lisa Baker

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