More organizations are beginning to realize the importance of making additional and intentional investments in mental health resources to support their employees. However, many rely on templated programs or traditional tools for a one-size-fits-all approach. A “check the box” attitude toward providing mental health resources often falls short of meeting employees’ actual needs. Every person’s mental health journey is unique, and employers must evolve their approach to adequately address today’s ever-changing workplace.
Leaders Need to Do More than ‘Talk the Talk’
Cultivating a healthy workplace doesn’t happen once per year when you review employee benefits at open enrollment. Fostering a truly inclusive, supportive company culture requires daily effort at all levels of the company, but it will empower employees to do their best work and remain fulfilled. Leaders today are under a microscope like never before: Employees are watching and evaluating whether their company’s actions live up to their words. In a recent study, 91% of respondents stated that company culture should support mental health (up 6% from the previous year).
Developing and maintaining a culture that encourages well-being is about more than just the resources provided to employees; it’s about the company practices that impact a person’s day-to-day work experience. Some questions employers should ask themselves include:
- Are employees consistently expected to work long hours or forgo time off?
- What kind of ongoing conversations about mental health happen in the workplace?
- Are managers fully equipped through coaching and training resources to support employees who are navigating challenges?
- Is employee feedback welcomed, encouraged and implemented?
Make no mistake, when employees feel unsupported or are unable to manage their stress and mental health, they will leave. A recent study found that 68% of millennials and 81% of Gen Zers have left roles (voluntarily and involuntarily) due to mental health reasons over the past year, compared to 50% of overall respondents. Younger generations are normalizing conversations around mental health and asking employers to do the same.
Implementing these practices is about more than keeping staff on when they become stressed. Indeed, proper mental health resources and a supportive company culture will help retain your best workers, but it will also build a foundation for longevity. When your team feels properly supported, they will not only stay longer, but they will be happier and more productive while they are at work. Absentee rates and health care costs will drop, and your business will benefit from having a long-tenured, experienced staff. By cultivating a positive reputation as a business that cares for your team, you’ll strengthen your recruitment efforts and attract top-tier talent to your company.
However, investing in mental health resources doesn’t automatically translate to a tangible culture change; leaders need to actively demonstrate an ongoing commitment to supporting employees with a multi-faceted approach, including innovative resources, consistent messaging, accessibility, and ongoing conversations about employee needs.
Offer Resources That Meet Employees’ Evolving Needs
Traditional wellness programs typically offer employee support for a specific life event or temporary circumstance but fail to address ongoing mental health needs. The evolution of technology and telemedicine presents new possibilities in the mental health support field, but employers often struggle to know which resources add value to their team.
While companies can implement various support options, 31% of employees stated that a more open culture around mental health was the most valued resource. More employees are leveraging day-to-day support, like taking more breaks and time during the workday for therapy, instead of using time off and leaves of absence, drastically underscoring the need for more immediate support.
Instead of requiring employees to jump through the complex hoops of finding providers and setting up an appointment (sometimes scheduled several weeks out), offering an immediate resource helps your team when they need it most. Espyr, for example, offers a program called TalkNow® that allows people to connect immediately with a licensed mental health professional without an appointment or a long wait time. Espyr measured a 52% increase in inbound calls from employees from March 2020 to March 2022, so the need for this service is clear. Espyr creates advanced, industry-leading mental health resources and benefits, all designed to empower employees to manage their mental health and help employers offer the most comprehensive support to their people.
Until the pandemic, most companies invested in on-site benefits like exercise classes, biometric screenings and health fairs. Those initiatives have slowed with the rise in remote and hybrid work, and more employers are investing in telehealth resources. A recent study found that 80% of employers plan to invest more in telemedicine in 2022. With cost-effective, flexible options that provide on-the-spot connections with a mental health professional, companies can offer resources that truly address employees’ needs with the accessibility to engage how they want and when they need to.
Investing in Mental Health Resources Is an Investment in the Future
Providing a robust mental health program is in the best interest of companies and their team members. Nearly one in five Americans will experience some type of mental illness every year, so employers must be prepared with tools and resources to help their team manage their health and well-being.
Work is an essential aspect of most people’s lives, which, at its best, provides purpose, motivation and a community of colleagues. Integrating conversations and resources around mental health into the workplace can offer a new layer of support as individuals navigate their personal and professional journeys. There are measurable benefits to implementing a support program, as 80% of employees who receive treatment for mental illness report improved work efficacy and satisfaction. Likewise, Espyr’s research found that 76% of its members stated that counseling services helped them be more effective at their job, underscoring the benefits of providing individualized, immediate mental health support.
Many companies see investing in mental health support for their people as a necessity to attract new candidates or keep up with the industry, but providing these resources also forms the foundation of a positive employee experience and, ultimately, a healthy and successful workplace. There are tangible benefits to offering mental health resources, including lower total medical costs, lower absenteeism, decreased disability costs, and increased productivity. Companies see an average $4 return on every dollar spent on mental health treatment, demonstrating that a customized mental health support program is money well spent.
People do their best work when they feel supported, heard and empowered with forward-thinking resources to manage their health. When businesses embrace the evolution of how to talk about and support mental health in the workplace, employers and employees can share meaningful and authentic growth.
09 August 2022
HR News Article