An alarming number of men feel they can’t be open about their health, with a recent study showing that nearly one in five admit they struggle to talk about health issues out of embarrassment.
The issue is so widespread that it has led to The Health and Social Care Committee to launch a new inquiry focusing on men’s physical and mental health, which aims to understand both the reasons behind a drop in life expectancy and higher levels of disease among men.
According to Mental Health UK, men are less likely to seek help for their mental health, with only 36 per cent of all NHS referrals for psychological therapies being for men, with over half (52 per cent) concerned about taking time off work. A further 46 per cent of men have reported they are embarrassed or ashamed to tell their employer about these issues.
Employers should consider providing health and wellbeing initiatives that both raise awareness about men’s health, resonate with employees while helping men feel more comfortable about getting help. Creating a culture of openness is key. Businesses should ensure they clearly communicate the benefits on offer to staff and the processes involved in accessing them.
According to a recent study by Group Risk Development, employers overestimate their workforces’ understanding of the health and wellbeing benefits available. While 57 per cent of employers believed their staff were fully aware of employee benefits, only one in five (21 per cent) employees said they had a good understanding of them.
While communicating available benefits should be done in a sensitive manner that protects the privacy of individuals, it’s important to help employees understand how they can use available benefits in a way that suits them. This can include online GP services or mental health support and counselling. Virtual services can often be accessed on the same day, meaning issues can be addressed early on before they escalate.
Employers should ensure they implement a strategy that focuses on prevention, information, and training. Managers are often the first port of call for people needing help and are also most likely to see warning signs of poor physical or mental health when they first occur.
It’s crucial that managers are properly trained to communicate with employees in a way that encourages them to be open about their concerns. Courses such as Mental Health First Aid can better prepare managers to recognise the signs that someone is struggling and help signpost people towards the right services.
It’s also important to encourage men in more senior positions to talk candidly about their own issues, in situations such as regular staff updates, to help de-stigmatise mental and physical health concerns and create a culture where they feel comfortable talking about their vulnerabilities.
Providing a variety of services that address different needs means health and wellbeing services will appeal to employees across the workforce.
Encouraging men to take up medical MOTs is also an important way to help people understand the issues affecting them as individuals, while signalling to people that their employer is concerned about their individual wellbeing. These health checks can also provide assessments based on familial history which can encourage men to take a more proactive approach in caring for their own health.
Businesses should also consider rolling out benefits that address lifestyle concerns that take place across different age groups. For Gen X, regular health assessments may be more important, whereas for Gen Z who tend to spend more time online, access to virtual platforms that offer mental health support might be more appealing given that research has found nearly half feel stressed or anxious all or most of the time.
With research suggesting that benefits tailored to employees’ needs can have a positive impact on retention and performance, it is not only the right thing to do by your staff, but it makes good business sense to develop a strong wellbeing strategy that both considers the individual and helps break the stigma around men’s health.