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    April 15, 2022

    Prioritizing Employee Mental Health - Benefits, Policies, and Work Culture

    Your workforce is more stressed than it was two years ago. According to the annual WTW (formerly Willis Towers Watson) 2021 Wellbeing Diagnostic Survey conducted in October, there is a need to rethink how organizations are providing mental health and wellbeing support to their employees:

    • 86% of employers said mental health, stress and burnout were still a priority
    • 49% had no formally articulated well-being strategy for their workforce
    • 26% had adopted a well-being strategy

    Clearly there is gap between understanding there is a problem and creating a strategy and project plan for many organizations when it comes to employee mental health.

    For HR and Benefits leaders, now is a good time to take a deeper dive into understanding what is causing mental health and wellbeing issues for your employees. There is no one size fits all approach. By spending some time on due diligence now, your organization can understand where your workforce is today and what key areas of mental health and wellbeing are of most concern to employees and which are the biggest cost drivers for your company.


    EAP Evaluation

    Traditionally companies have relied on their EAP provider for mental health support, but not all EAP vendors provide the same level of service or may be a good fit for your organization. Knowing what other EAP vendors provide, who their counselors, are and how well they are performing for your employees is important to understand.

    What You Can Do

    • Evaluate the trend in costs related to mental health drugs and claims against EAP usage and turnover numbers. Unaddressed unhealthy stressors can lead to higher claims costs, more absenteeism, burnout, and potentially higher turnover costs.
    • Find out if your EAP has professionals from diverse backgrounds and geographies. Your diversity employees may not feel comfortable talking to a counselor/social worker that doesn’t have a connection to their background. For example: an employee from a southern state may not feel comfortable talking to someone from the mid-west or vice versa.
    • Despite a lot of work to get more managers and employees to better understand mental health and wellbeing and its impact on the workplace, there are still biases that may need to be addressed. It may be time to look at other educational approaches that could be more effective.


    Work Culture, Benefits, and Policies

    The pandemic required a lot of fast pivots and has creating confusion regarding the best approach to how work gets done. Few leaders think they will return to their pre-pandemic approach. Current challenges provide the opportunity to understand what is needed to increase productivity and employee engagement.

    Questions your team may be discussing: Should there be a push for everyone to come back into the workplace and when? Is a blended/hybrid approach for workflow best for us? Should employees be able to choose for themselves to work from home or come to the office? How do we help managers navigate workflow for their teams while there is still uncertainty?

    These questions create stress for all members of your teams. Your leadership may not be ready to decide about what policies and benefits will work best for your organization right now. But there are ways to help navigate through the decision process and changes.

    What You Can Do

    Benefits and Policies: Silence from leadership when there are rumors about change can cause unnecessary stress and distraction from focusing on the work that needs to get done. Communication is key.

    • Let your workforce know that your company’s “how work gets done” policies are being discussed and their concerns are being heard.
    • Get Input. Ask for input from employees at all levels to better understand what is causing stress from different viewpoints. This can be done via an anonymous survey or interviews and/or roundtable discussions.
    • Take some time to understand how caregiving may be impacting some of your employees, whether that is for children and/or aging adults. This can help your organization think through the benefits of flexible schedules and work-from-home policies.
    • Let employees know you are looking to incorporate inclusion and diversity priorities in benefits program design, including through an ethnic, gender, geographic, LGBTQ+, and intergenerational workforce approach.
    • Review your health plan. See if it provides out-of-network mental health coverage and what must be paid out of pocket until there is a reimbursement. This cost could be a barrier to employees getting treatment. Get information to employees about what options are available to cover those costs.
    • It takes 5 to 7 times before most employees will remember any new information about a benefit and/or policy. Make sure there is ongoing communication.
    • For more engagement, incorporate education on employee mental health and wellbeing into leadership training programs.

    Need experienced guidance in aligning your benefits and policies with a meaningful employee health and wellbeing strategy? Contact us to find out how we can help you created a culturally specific, impactful way to increase engagement, measure the success of initiatives, and build a culture that attracts and retains the talent you need to stay competitive.


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