Supporting Your Workers with Mental Health Employee Benefits

November 8, 2021

Many workers are struggling with depression, anxiety and other mental disorders. Around 1 in 5 U.S. adults live with mental illness, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. In the 26 to 49 age range, the rate of mental illness is 25%.

Stress is also common, and although stress can be a normal part of life, excessive stress can be detrimental. The National Institute of Mental Health says that long-term stress can cause sleeplessness, sadness, anger, irritability and headaches. It can also contribute to more serious issues, including anxiety, depression, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Mental Health and Stress Issues Impact Business

When your workers are struggling with stress and mental health problems, it can impact their performance. They may be unable to focus and tired because of sleep deprivation. They may call in sick. They may even decide to leave the workforce entirely.

According to the American Institute of Stress, about one million workers miss work each day because of stress, and U.S. businesses lose up to $300 billion each year because of workplace stress. Workers also miss work because of depression, and this absenteeism costs businesses about $51 billion.

Workers Are Demanding Help

The American Institute of Stress says that only 43% of U.S. workers think their employers care about their work-life balance. This means that most workers think their employers don’t care — and many are fed up with this.

During the pandemic, many employers said they wanted to focus on mental health. According to Healio, a recent study found that 67% of workers polled said they would consider quitting if they felt their employer wasn’t following through on those promises.

Helping Your Workers

Employers need to do better. They can’t just assume that workers are OK, either. According to Fortune, many workers try to hide their mental health issues, and 84% of employees say they rarely mean it every time they say they’re “fine” or “good.” Improving mental health will take real action and new strategies. Here are some ideas:

  • Foster a supportive environment. If your workers aren’t opening up when you ask how they are, it might be because they don’t think you really want to know. Make it clear that you actually want to help your employees. Then listen to what your workers have to say.

  • Give workers the support they need. Workers may need to handle various personal and professional issues before they can fully focus on work. Offer programs that will help them do this. Employee assistance programs can offer assistance with a wide range of issues by providing counseling, services and referrals. Also consider benefits that provide support for caregivers and working parents, such as childcare stipends.

  • Be flexible. Sometimes, a little flexibility might be all workers need to achieve work-life balance. This may involve allowing flexible schedules or letting employees work from home. Many workers have gotten used to some level of flexibility during the pandemic, and they may not be willing to return to rigid schedules. According to Fortune, one survey found that 76% of workers want flexibility about where they work, 93% of workers want flexibility about when they work, and 21% will probably quit if they don’t get the flexibility they need.

  • Provide access to counseling and therapy. Strong mental health benefits are essential, and teletherapy is an increasingly popular benefit. According to Fierce Healthcare, one company reported a 302% increase in virtual therapy and psychiatry during the pandemic. Post-pandemic, usage may drop somewhat, but the American Psychology Association points out that telepsychology can make care easier to access, and research shows that it is effective.

Need Guidance?

Alera Group's employee benefits professionals can show you cost-effective ways to incorporate mental health support into your employee benefits program. Contact us to learn more.

In addition, we invite you to join us on Thursday, November 18, for a one-hour webinar, "Mental Health: Managing Stress and Year-End Burnout." Participants will come away with resources and strategies to better take care of their own mental health, and that of their team, during this busy time of year. 

To register, click on the link below. 


About the Author

Cynthia Cameron, RHU

Employee Benefits Sales Executive

Propel Insurance, an Alera Group Company

As a second-generation employee benefits professional and entrepreneur, Cynthia Cameron has guided clients through decades of challenging times. A Registered Health Underwriter (RHU), she is committed to helping her clients achieve success by developing and implementing strategies to maximize the client’s return on their investments and minimize their risks. Cynthia becomes part of each client's culture and works as a partner to stay on top of the latest benefits trends while honestly evaluating their effectiveness. 

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