Why Mental Health Must be Part of Your Employee Benefits Package

Mental health must be part of your employee benefits package

If you think your employees’ mental health is none of your business, you may need to think again. The CDC reports that nearly 1 in 5 adults struggles with a mental health issue and 71% of adults report symptoms of stress. They’ve also found that the cost of treating someone with both a physical and a mental condition is two to three times higher than treating a physical condition alone.

The truth is that mental health affects your business in many ways – from productivity, morale and turnover to the cost of employee benefits and workers’ compensation insurance.

By giving your team the resources to deal with stress and other mental health issues, you can help build a stronger, more productive team. Here’s why – and how – you should make mental health a workplace priority in 2020 and build mental health benefits and wellness strategies into your employee benefits package for 2021.

COVID-19 Takes Its Toll on Mental Health

The National Institute of Mental Health says that approximately one in five adults in the U.S. lives with a mental illness. Now the coronavirus pandemic may be causing a new mental health crisis as people worry about the virus while also struggling with the emotional impact of isolation. According to the Washington Post, data indicates that depression and anxiety are on the rise, with one online therapy company reporting a 65% jump in clients since mid-February.

This is a human problem. It’s also a work problem.

When employees are stressed, anxious and depressed, their work will likely suffer. According to the American Institute of Stress, 63% of workers are ready to quit because of stress, and stress and anxiety are cited as the top factors impacting productivity and coworker relations.

Helping workers deal with mental health is the right thing to do. It also makes business sense.

Providing Benefits and Policies to Support Mental Health

With the right benefits and policies, employers can foster a workplace environment that supports mental health.

  • Virtual Therapy: In recent years, telehealth has emerged as a convenient, cost-effective method of care delivery. Telehealth isn’t limited to physical ailments, either. Back in 2017, the American Psychological Association wrote about a growing wave of online therapy. Many patients enjoy the flexible nature of virtual therapy and the ability to access help anywhere, anytime.

As the pandemic causes people’s stress to soar, virtual therapy benefits may be a great way to provide counseling options while promoting social distancing.

  • Mental Health Apps: While apps and screen time can add to a person’s stress, the right apps may also help reduce stress.

Apps like Calm, for example, are designed to help people reduce stress and improve sleep through guided meditation. Other apps can provide access to virtual counseling, tips and other mental health resources.

These apps are starting to catch on with employers. For example, according to Employee Benefit News, Starbucks is now providing employees with access to Headspace, an app that provides audio sessions, mediations and information on important mental health topics.

  • Employee Assistance Programs: For employers that want to get serious about mental health, Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are the way to go. EAPs can provide employees with confidential help on a variety of issues, including mental health, substance abuse, financial problems, legal problems and more.
  • Workplace Flexibility: Juggling professional and personal obligations can become a major source of stress. A little flexibility from employers can go a long way in reducing this stress.

According to Harvard Business Review, 88% of job seekers say they give having more flexible hours some or heavy consideration when considering positions. Work-from-home options are also very popular, with 80% of job seekers saying they give these options some or heavy consideration.

  • A Positive Environment: CNBC reports that nearly one in five workers say they face a hostile or threatening environment at work, while 55% say they face unpleasant and potentially hazardous conditions.

Toxic workplaces need to go. Common problems include office bullies, sexual harassment and unreasonable demands. Employers can implement policies and provide training to stamp out these problems while developing a positive environment in which workers are appreciated and supported.

And if you don’t think the problem is that bad, consider this alarming point from Inc.: Research from Stanford professor Jeffrey Pfeffer shows that toxic workplaces contribute to more than 120,000 deaths each year and account for 5 to 8% of annual healthcare costs.

  • Other Benefits: Mental health is a complex topic, so addressing it properly can require a multipronged approach. In addition to the above ideas, employers can also look at the specific needs of their workforce and provide benefits – like childcare, gym memberships, financial counseling or transportation vouchers – that address the most challenging issues of the workforce.

Make sure your workplace is part of the mental health solution. For ideas about mental health benefits and wellness strategies, reach out to the Employee Benefits team at Propel Insurance.

Cynthia Cameron

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