Mental health data can be the most difficult to track, and for that reason many employers may have a hidden problem with mental health in their workforce. 1 in every 5 Americans has a mental health condition, and there’s no better time than Mental Health Awareness Month to evaluate your benefits package and ensure that it supports employees holistically. Open enrollment will be here before you know it, so now is the time to refresh your benefits strategy!
The good news? 93% of organizations currently offer mental health and/or substance abuse benefits, which include:
- 88% – Employee Assistance Programs
- 40% – Wellness Programs
- 30% – Health Risk Assessments
However, there is always room for improvement. Even when an employee is brave enough to admit they need help, they often don’t know where to start.
According to The National Institute of Mental Health, major mental illness costs the US over $193 billion each year in lost earnings. And, The Partnership for Workplace for Mental Health reports that depression alone costs companies $44 billion in lost productivity.
Supporting your employees’ mental health will help support a workforce that is happy, healthy, and productive – a win/win for all parties.
Here are ten employee benefit programs to better support mental health:
1.) Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
The most popular mental health support benefit, Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), are designed to assist employees with personal problems that may adversely affect their work performance. EAPs support assistance with everything from financial problems and marital conflicts to substance abuse issues and more. Plans might also offer additional service, like basic legal assistance, adoption assistance, a nurse hotline, and more. The counseling, treatment, and support services offered through an EAP can reduce absenteeism and turnover and increase morale and productivity over time.
2.) Health Insurance
Unsurprisingly, health insurance is the most important benefit that employers can offer. Most health insurance offerings will include specific support for mental health services, which might include inpatient or outpatient treatment, telemedicine, counseling and medication. Telemedicine, in particular, presents an enormous opportunity for employees to have 24/7 access to convenient and affordable mental health support.
3.) Leadership Training
One of the most challenging roadblocks related to mental health awareness and support is the stigma around mental health. This is why it is essential to incorporate mental health training programs into general employee workplace training and into leadership training for managers and directors. A good leader should be able to identify possible mental health issues in the workplace and should not be afraid to offer empathetic and well-informed support, where appropriate. The more mental health is discussed in the workplace, the less the stigma will exist.
Mental health awareness and support? There’s an app for that! Embracing mobile and integrating app-based benefits into your offerings will offer affordable and convenient ways to support mental health. A few popular apps dedicated to supporting mental health include Happify and MoodKit, though others certainly exist. Telemedicine is also a booming field and gives employees flexible and private support at the tip of their fingertips.
5.) Stress Management
A 2016 study suggests that companies spend over $300 billion annually for missed work days and health care as a direct result of one thing: stress. Stress can be a huge distractor and lead to other long-term mental health issues, like depression and anxiety. The key to managing employee stress? Be proactive with stress management programs that focus on preventative care. Preventative care programs aim to arm participants with the tools necessary to handle change and crises positively and efficiently.
6.) Parental Perks
It’s no secret that the United States falls far behind other countries when it comes to parental support. Paid maternity leave is not a requirement and many organizations do not offer much—if any—support for new moms and dads. The only good news from this otherwise sad tale is that companies that offer even modest perks for new parents really stand out with current employees and recruits. A few perks for parents to consider include:
- Paid parental leave (moms AND dads!)
- On-site childcare or childcare assistance
- Fertility assistance
- Nursing assistance
- Flex return-to-work schedule
- On-site lactation room
7.) Financial Literacy Education
Financial wellness is a hot topic in the employee benefits space. Financial problems are commonly cited as a top cause of employee stress.
Millennials, in particular, are feeling the financial strain with more than $1.48 trillion in student loan debt.
Retirement savings is another top stressor, with a staggering amount of aging workers reporting having $0 in savings. A recent report cited the median savings (those at the 50th percentile) for all working-aged families in the US is just $5,000.
As consumer debt rises and more employees consider postponing retirement, more and more employers are embracing the problem by providing financial wellness and literacy perks.
Popular program options include student loan repayment assistance and/or education through providers like Tuition.io and 401(k) optimization through vendors like blooom – to name a few.
8.) Paid Time Off
Though offering paid time off is not a mandatory policy, providing time off for vacation or personal reasons supports a healthy work/life balance. Nationally, most professional organizations offer 10 paid holidays and at least 10 additional “PTO” days to be used at an employee’s discretion. It is also common for organizations to offer a tier structure to reward employees with more PTO time based on tenure.
Outside of the standard PTO policies, other, more generous perks might include birthday or anniversary time off, mental health days, “summer Fridays”, and volunteer hours. Or, your organization could consider an unlimited vacation time policy, a trend that is picking up steam.
9.) Flexible Work Schedule
If beefing up your PTO policy isn’t an option, or if you want to invest even more heavily in work/life balance, consider implementing a flexible work schedule policy. A flex work schedule allows employees to complete their work outside of the traditional 9-5 window. This could mean allowing employees to come in early to leave early, come in late to leave late, take breaks throughout the day for personal or family events, or to completely determine their own schedule. The ability to be flexible might vary based on industry or company size, but giving employees even a little more freedom to better balance their personal and professional responsibilities will go a long way in building loyalty and employee retention.
10.) Social Stuff
Is your office all work and no play? Consider adding social elements into your company culture to encourage employee interaction and stress reduction. This could include on-site events, like company lunch or team-building days, or off-site events, like a company happy hour or family event.