Employee Benefits: Mental Health & the Workplace
Understanding the Issue – Managing Mental Health in the Workplace
Stress. Depression. Anxiety. Burnout.
These are just a few of the mental health conditions that are impacting today’s employees. According to a recent Paychex survey, almost 60% (57.9) of people say work has an impact on their mental health.
For millennials, who now make up 35% of the U.S. workforce, the situation seems to be particularly acute. A joint survey by the Health Action Council and United HealthCare found that anxiety and depression account for 66% of millennial diagnoses.
FACTORS CONTRIBUTING TO THE CURRENT STATE OF MENTAL HEALTH
In general, increasing financial pressures and ongoing struggles are contributing to mental health-related distress that’s disrupting the workplace. Among them:
The Pandemic’s Impact on Children
It wasn’t enough that the pandemic brought sickness, death, grief, and uncertainty to many households, but it’s also left many parents to deal with the longer-term physical, social, and emotional impacts on their school-age children. In fact, Pew Research shows that the remote learning and social isolation required to stem exposure’s during the pandemic had a lasting impact. Difficulty assimilating back to classroom setting, falling behind in learning, and bringing home failing grades are just some of the added stresses employees with kids K-12 must now manage daily.
About six-in-ten (61%) Americans say the pandemic had a negative effect on their children’s education.
Widespread Tech Layoffs
Widely publicized layoffs of thousands over the past few months, particularly in the tech and digital sectors, continue to weigh heavy on the minds of workers, even those who were not laid off. The effect? Heightened stress and worry over job security, losing financial stability, and feeling disposable and vulnerable if/when the next wave comes around.
“Burnout and stress are at all-time highs across professions.”
Persistent Economic Uncertainty
Recent bank failures, high inflation, and the ever-present fear of a recession taking hold have shaken employee confidence in their financial security. Paychecks don’t seem to go as far as they once did as normal living expenses, like groceries, rent, and fuel, have become significantly more expensive.
Common Work-Related Strain
There are also workplace strains that can compromise the mental well-being of employees, including:
- Frustration – due to dysfunctional relationships with co-workers, lack of diversity equity and inclusion, and ambiguous roles and direction.
- Exhaustion – that can result from long hours or inflexible work schedules, excessive workloads due to a lack of staff, and a combative work culture.
- Low job satisfaction – due to low pay and lack of advancement potential, little managerial support, and infrequent communication from leaders.
KEY IMPACTS FOR EMPLOYERS
Left unchecked, mental health-related issues of employees can take a toll on employers. Impacts include:
A Gallup survey of nearly 16,000 U.S. workers found that nearly one in five rate their mental health as only “fair” or “poor,” and cause them to miss about 12 days of work every year. Depression alone is estimated to cause 200 million lost workdays per year.
Of course, when fewer individuals show up for work, less gets done. In fact, overall effect of absenteeism costs the economy nearly $48 billion annually in lost productivity.
Untreated depression, for example, costs $9,450 per employee, per year in absenteeism and lost productivity.
Research shows that less than half of people suffering from a mental health issue actually get help for it. Unfortunately, that’s not surprising given that almost one-in-three Americans who need mental health care say they can’t receive it. In fact, the average wait time nationwide for getting behavioral services is now 48 days. (In some states, like California, the wait can be even longer despite recent legislation requiring care within 10 days.)
This means that many who are suffering, physically go to work. But mentally don’t show up. And that can lead to presenteeism and:
- reduced output and revenues because they’re less motivated and more preoccupied
- more potential for errors and poor decisions due to lack of focus
- higher risk of causing an accident or harming other workers (or themselves)
Higher benefits costs
Mental health issues can drive up overall health costs for employers. For instance, the Mental Health Foundation reports that those with a mental health problem are more likely to have a preventable physical health condition, such as heart disease. On average, those with heart disease can cost employers $1,119 more in insurance.
WHAT EMPLOYERS CAN DO TO HELP
Acknowledge Tough Times
Just letting employees know that you are aware of the pressures they’re facing can alleviate a little of their stress and let them know they’re not alone.
Remind employees of the mental health benefits that are available through your benefits program, including access to employee assistance programs (EAP), counseling sessions through telehealth, and medical plans that have mental health professionals in network.
Since a great deal of stress today comes from work-life balance, you may want to consider offering more flexible work schedules, remote work options, hybrid work arrangements, and/or mental health days off to help ease those issues.
Promote a Culture of Mental Wellness
Sponsoring online meditation sessions, stress management webinars, and connecting employees to wellness apps can all help to ease the daily stresses of work—by taking just a few minutes out of the workday.
Strategies to Manage the Issue – Use Mental Health Month to Evaluate Your Mental Health Offerings
Nationwide, the average wait time for getting behavioral services is now 48 days. Long wait times pose a problem not only for employees who need the help to feel better but also for employers whose businesses may be suffering from a stressed-out workforce.
In a recent Paychex survey, business leaders said the growing trend of mental health issues is having negative effects on their operations, including:
- Lower revenues and profits
- Loss of customers and employees
- Lower productivity
- Damage to their brand
However, when employees are able to get the behavioral or mental health services they need, when they need it, things can improve.
40% of U.S. workers currently suffer from a combination of mental health concerns, performance issues, and stress, it can be extremely difficult to get help.
66% percent of employees report feeling better about their employer after using a benefit.
86% of employees improved work performance and lowered rates of absenteeism after receiving treatment, particularly for depression.
WHAT CAN EMPLOYERS DO TO IMPROVE ACCESS TO CARE?
Take advantage of Mental Health Awareness month to evaluate the mental health offerings in your benefits program. Here are a few questions that can help you start the process.
Does your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) offer a robust range of services, such as:
- Available counseling to employees and families
- Free counseling sessions – how many and for how long
- Unlimited phone or virtual access to services
- Education and training sessions provided both in-person and online
- Counselors and specialists to treat substance use disorder – with referrals to rehab centers
- Access to personal financial coaches
- Educational workshops or webinars about prevalent mental health issues, like: stress management, parenting, managing difficult relationships, budgeting, and crisis counseling/response
- Virtual access to meditation exercises or mobile apps that can help employees relax and manage stress throughout the workday
- Suicide risk assessment and treatment – support for long-term recovery
- 24/7 crisis counseling
What type of support is offered by your EAP provider to inform and engage employees?
Although EAPs can be effective at helping employees address issues affecting their work performance, they have been underutilized over the years often due to the stigma attached to using it. So, employees who can benefit from it, instead, suffer in silence.
Ongoing communications (beyond open enrollment) and other efforts to encourage engagement could help stop the stigma and facilitate greater access. Check to see if your EAP provider offers things like:
- A monthly newsletter about the value, benefits, and services offered by an EAP
- Incentive programs that motivate employees to register for a webinar or download an app, for example
- Organization-wide training about how to access services
- Messages from senior leadership about why the EAP is important to the workplace
Are telehealth services available to employees?
Not only can telehealth provide easier access to care, but it can also reduce the hassles of getting to appointments (e.g., arranging for transportation, childcare, time off from work, etc.), ensure privacy, and make it easy to stick with treatment over time. Even better, a wide array of services can now be delivered virtually, so check to see if your telehealth offering provides:
- Mental health screening
- Individual, group, or text therapy options
- Addiction counseling and treatment
- Medication prescribing and monitoring
- Referrals to other mental health professionals, programs, or facilities
- Anxiety and depression monitoring
Are behavioral health services covered under your health plan?
Given growing demand, many health insurance plans now:
- Include access to mental health services through primary care physicians
- Provide telehealth visits
- Have more mental health professionals in its network – does yours?
60% of Americans say their mental health support was fully covered by their health insurance.
What, if any, mobile apps are part of your mental health and wellness offerings?
These apps can provide supplemental resources to:
- Help overcome obstacles to getting care, such as cost, access, and stigma
- Offer daily mindful techniques, guidance, and even sessions without therapy appointments
- Provide convenient, immediate, confidential, and very often, free, access through a cell phone, with no wait time
- Help those who may live far from medical/wellness facility, clinic, or doctor offices
- Offer on-demand service during a natural catastrophe (e.g., Hurricane) or traumatic event (e.g., mass shooting.)
Determining a Path Forward – Contact Us.
Improving access to care is key to addressing mental health issues in the workplace. To get help evaluating your benefit offerings and structuring a program that truly offers the behavioral health services your employees need, connect with a member of our team today.
This material has been prepared for informational purposes only. BRP Group, Inc. and its affiliates, do not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. Please consult with your own tax, legal or accounting professionals before engaging in any transaction.