Employees who initially present with physical health conditions need support for mental health and emotional problems in practically all cases, according to RedArc’s team of nurses. The company has found that no matter what the individual’s physical health condition, some level of additional mental or emotional problem also needs to be dealt with after the initial diagnosis.
Christine Husbands, managing director for RedArc says:
“For employers this can come as somewhat of a surprise, as once the physical issue is being dealt with there is often a ‘business as usual’ mentality from line managers or HR departments. However, many employees need support in dealing with related issues such as managing pain, loss of dignity or coming to terms with life-changing health conditions. Other non-medical issues can become overwhelming during times of ill-health too, such as changes in the workplace, financial pressures, loss of confidence and fatigue.”
RedArc advises employers to consider the entire wellbeing of the employee and not just to acknowledge their physical symptoms. Many employees who have access to an independent nurse adviser refer to them as an ‘expert best friend’ reflecting the time they can dedicate to the emotional wellbeing of the employee-patient and the supportive relationship they can build.
RedArc believes that third-party telemedical advisers are growing in popularity for a number of reasons:
- Squeezed NHS hospital services and pressure on GPs
- More people are surviving serious illnesses but living with multiple health problems
- Families living further apart and not available to physically support each other
- Financial pressures and debt worries when ill
- Pressure at work and fear of failure when suffering an illness or returning to employment
Christine Husbands concluded:
“Falling ill with a physical condition can expose a mental fragility in even the seemingly toughest of employees. Having a way to support staff through what can be a difficult journey to full health or in a return to a new norm, is greatly valued and it helps engender an extremely positive sentiment towards the employer as well. Employers can’t be expected to understand the intricacies of every single illness and the associated mental health issues, but by offering a support service they are embracing their duty of care and demonstrating to the individual and the wider staff community that they care about employees and want to go the extra mile for them.”
RedArc is calling for all employers to check their existing insurance policies to see if they already have such services – as many insurers are now including valuable support services at no extra cost. For those that find they do have built in added-value support, employers should ensure they communicate the benefits to staff as this helps engender loyalty, support staff retention and reduces absence.
For those employers who do not have the benefit already, and are not in a position to provide it, HR should ensure that line managers are trained to keep an eye out for employees in need of emotional support throughout a period of illness, including when an employee returns to work after a period of physical illness.
Absence management expert Adrian Lewis of Activ Absence added:
“It’s important for employers to see that ‘sickness’ extends beyond absence from work. By adopting a whole-person view towards employee wellness, using automated systems to help target HR and line manager support and improving engagement with the benefits that are often already available within their current package, employers can make a significant difference to the impact that a serious illness has on an individual. This also helps reduce sickness absence and improves the bottom line.”