With all the talk going on about the significance of mental health and how it impacts a person’s work life, a number of initiatives are being considered by employers to assist their employees’ wellbeing. Compared to 10 years ago, employers are now open to talking about mental health in the workplace – and some big names have backed their internal initiatives with external actions, such as Bell’s Let’s Talk. However, small and mid-sized enterprise (SME) employers still hesitate to offer mental health benefits due to cost concerns. This begs the question … what if there was a way to support employees without breaking the bank? It could be easier than you think.

Let’s start with something simple, such as expanding the definition of paid sick days. Typically, these days are offered to show employees that their employers care about their wellbeing. While many large employers have clearly defined – and often rigid – definitions for sick days, most SME employers don’t quite define the parameters. What if thoughtfully defining these could give a competitive edge to employers struggling to find and retain top talent? Instead of limiting sick days to only physical or visible ailments (such as migraines, backaches or knee sprains), business owners can define paid sick days as days that an employee needs to recover or recoup from mental or physical illnesses.

According to a survey, close to 50% of employees report higher levels of stress now compared to two years ago¹. Expanding the definition of paid sick days to cover reasons associated with mental health could go a long way in proving to employees that their employers are putting their money where their mouth is. From an SME employer’s perspective, this change doesn’t cost extra as it’s merely an expansion of allowable cause for absences (unless of course the employer would like to offer paid mental health days in addition to existing paid sick days, which will win employers brownie points with their workforce).

In a day and age where budgets grow smaller, shareholders grow impatient, and workforce loyalty is on the decline, thinking of out-of-the-box ways to retain talent with sustainability is key to the success of any business, especially one in the SME industry.

1. Mental Health and Substance Abuse Benefits: 2018 Survey Results