Mental health issues at work have risen dramatically in Switzerland. In 2012 stress related absences cost an estimated CHF10bn according to SECO. In the post Covid era, work absences due to mental health issues increased by a massive 70% (versus 2012). This according to PK Rück Insurance, which is now reporting a staggering 20% rise in cases versus previous year.

  • The professions most affected are: teachers, doctors, nurses and administrators.
  • The age groups most at risk being:
    • 40 to 50
    • 18-24, where 7 out of 10 people unable to work, suffer from mental illness. This is four times higher compared to 25 years ago.

And with an estimated one in five employees now reporting high levels of stress, it would make sense for the Government to prioritise this issue. But unlike other European countries where burn-out is considered an occupational disease, in Switzerland non-work factors are thought to be responsible, which seems incredible.

 

Also according to PK Rück Insurance, severe mental illness cases result in work stoppage for an average of 18 months. This is twice as long as for other illnesses. Reintegration into the workforce is also lower than with other health issues and after a 6- month absence, only around 50% of workers manage to return to work. This drops to 20% after one year. So how can employers support workers with wellbeing and what is the process for workers when they experience mental health issues?

 

Employers

Despite the Government pointing to reasons other than work behind mental health issues, employers in Switzerland are becoming increasingly proactive with regards to their employer wellbeing. Preventive strategies aimed at building healthy co-relationships between employer and employee to offset the costs of long term absenteeism due to mental health is the main reason. Some trends and facts:

  • According to a recent study by Mercer, more than 60% of participating companies in Switzerland have a clear wellbeing strategy in place.
  • The main concerns of responding employers are:
    • The work life balance of its employees
    • The mental health of employees
    • The virtual work environment
    • Burnout
  • With the classic company wellbeing benefits such as the complimentary fruit bowl, or gym membership now becoming redundant, employers are looking further including with a mix of digital apps as well as physical health solutions to realistically combat employee mental health issues. These include social and financial which can lead to mental and physical health issues.
  • One globally leading digital health solution (App) used by insurance companies around the globe to combat their clients’ employee health absenteeism issues is dacadoo. This Swiss company motto is to: “empower insurers, banks, retailers, health providers, telecommunication companies, and employers to promote healthier lifestyles with their customers and employees”. 
  • Dacadoo offers a patented “Health Score” for users and encourages these to improve their health and lifestyles through fun and playful activities . The App is available via insurance providers to individual companies and for large corporations direct. The goal from the insurance companies is to prevent large payouts and for their company clients, to keep their workers fit and healthy.
  • The challenge in Switzerland may not be the lack of digital wellbeing products that companies can plug into to help improve employee mental and physical wellbeing, but the fact that 99% of the companies in Switzerland are classified as SME’s. For many, a digital health product may be too expensive or cumbersome to manage.

Employees

Switzerland is a unique market place where 99% of companies are classified as SME’s. And from a total of 609’518 companies registered in Switzerland, 51% or 316’000 companies engage only one employee. It is also reported that 25% of the total people working in Switzerland are engaged as freelancers.

Remote working increased during the pandemic and has now gone mainstream. One reason for the dramatic increase in mental health issues post Covid can be attributed to the virtual work environment and lack of social contact.
So what can employees do about protecting their own mental health? Who do they report to about not feeling well – or for support? If the employer works in a small company, who do they need to contact first? Is it the insurance company or the social funds? What about the authorities?
Benjamin Franklin famously advised Philadelphians  that “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Clearly, preventing something is better than fighting it, but to what extent can employees protect themselves from mental health issues and burnout?
Prevention
Some areas for both employer and employee to work together on could be:
  • Work-life balance – employers can support staff in building a healthy life-balance through leisure programs, as recognition for hard work, long hours etc.
  • Financial wellbeing – holding regular 1-2-1 sessions with employees helps ensure that employers find out early what problems and challenges their staff may be experiencing. Studies show that around 46 percent of people with debt also have a mental health diagnosis. And a staggering 86 percent of people with mental health issues and debt say that their debt makes their mental health issues worse.
  • Good social circle – remote work has made having a good social circle even more important and employers who organise social activities for their employees can go a long way to helping this.
  • Physical wellbeing – is also a contributory factor to mental health and employers can support their teams by organising events involving physical expertise or indeed engage with wellbeing Apps that involve physical exercise.
Who to report too?

According to a recent IPOS study, 48% of Swiss people see mental health one of the biggest health problems facing the country. And 39% see stress as the biggest health problem facing the country.
Good news is the Swiss mental health care system provides broad and comprehensive coverage for residents. And residents in Switzerland can receive outpatient mental health care in a variety of facilities, including private practices and public clinics.  Employees wanting to talk to someone about their mental health issues or wanting to report their case should consider contacting one of the following:
  • Their HR / Line Manager. These will generally be able to advise on options and next steps, including reporting the case to their local doctor or specialist.
  • Insurance companies such as AXA also have support services for those with mental health issues. And with every second person in Switzerland suffering from mental health or mental stress issues at least once in their life it is understandable to see why. There are several comparison websites listing insurance companies
  • Report to Krankenkasse. If time off work is required – reporting the actual situation to the krankenkasse or health insurance is obligatory. This can be done together with the HR and with support from a doctor or mental health specialist.

Summary
Cases of mental health issues are growing around the world. Switzerland is no exception. Employers are becoming more active in supporting employees with tools such as Apps and programs specifically designed to encourage good health, both mental and physical. Employees need to understand that support organisations and processes are available if they do suffer mental health challenges.

Swissroll GmbH was founded over 20 years ago. During this time our team of experts has worked with hundreds of companies and literally thousands of contractors. Also cross border workers. Beyond our core function of payroll management, we offer advice to workers about which engagement model best suits theirs, and the clients needs. This includes giving advice in French, German and English and on social security, tax as well as working remotely and what to do in the case of mental health challenges. Call or contact us now on: enquiries@swissroll.ch