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    3 Employee Benefits Trends Improving Mental Health in the Workplace

    Each year in May, we celebrate Mental Health Awareness month. After two years of pandemic stress, keeping up with constantly changing news cycles, and dealing with increasing economic uncertainty, we could all use a mental health boost.

    In 2020, one in five American adults had experienced some sort of mental illness, including anxiety, depression, and substance abuse disorder. In 2021, after a year of dealing with a global pandemic and social unrest, the prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by an estimated 25%.

    The truth is, we’re all feeling a little frazzled, these days. That’s why it’s more important than ever to support your employees’ mental health.

    According to McKinsey & Company, over 30% of employers have added new mental health benefits within the past year. Despite these increased efforts, nearly a quarter of employees still don’t feel supported when it comes to their mental well-being.

    Organizations should evaluate their mental health and wellness benefits strategies and consider how they can best support their workforce. To help with this, employers can consider the following trends that are helping to improve employees’ mental health in 2022.

    1. Emphasizing Employee Assistance Programs

    Organizations and employers can expect to see more mental health programs in 2022 and beyond. According to a recent industry survey, the overwhelming majority of employers (90%) said they would be increasing their investment in mental health and wellness programs.

    An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provides free and confidential assessments, counseling, referrals, and follow-up services to employees that experience personal and/or work-related problems. In addition, EAPs can also provide workers and their families with short-term counseling and access to resources and treatment facilities. These services come at no cost to the employee or their family and are available 24/7.

    EAPs can help businesses address organizational components that may be contributing to a negative work environment, enabling them to resolve and prevent those types of issues from occurring. According to the Center for Prevention and Health Services, when EAP services were provided, work loss was avoided in 39% of cases and work productivity improved in 36% of cases.

    2. Greater Scheduling Flexibility

    Being able to fit in doctor’s appointments and other healthcare-related visits remains a top workplace desire for employees. Having work flexibility allows employees to better manage their personal responsibilities, creating a better work-life balance for them and increasing employee retention for you.

    This is more important in 2022 than ever. According to the Harvard Business Review, compared to pre-pandemic times, 47% of employees are now more likely to put family and personal life over work and 53% are more likely to prioritize their health and well-being—that figure rises to 55% for parents and 56% for women.

    Employers are expected to increase scheduling flexibility in 2022 to accommodate their employees’ needs. A recent survey found that 83% of employers are considering flexible work arrangements more than they did prior to the pandemic, and 73% plan to implement a hybrid environment. This demonstrates how important having remote work options will be for businesses that want to stay competitive, improve mental well-being, and attract employees in 2022.

    3. Expanded Virtual Doctor Visits

    The use of telehealth services—already on the rise for the past several years—soared during the coronavirus disruptions. Telehealth and telemedicine platforms utilize virtual technology to help physicians and patients communicate with each other, even if they are not in the same physical location. This communication can be either in real-time or delayed, via phone, webcam, or email. Telemedicine can be used for the evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of patients.

    There are many advantages to telemedicine as a solution to mental health issues exacerbated by coronavirus disruptions—to both employers and their employees, including:

    • Allows providers to continue to treat mental health issues while staying within social distancing guidelines, reducing the risk of spreading COVID-19 to patients
    • Increased access to doctors, especially in rural areas
    • Greater access to specialists, especially for mental health services
    • Higher cost savings for patients and plan sponsors

    Telemedicine has become such a significant trend in employee benefits that 80% of employers intend to invest more in the solution in 2022.

    Conclusion

    These are challenging times for business leaders. Implementing or improving an employee health benefits and wellness program empowers your employees by providing easy access to quality medical and mental health services can help improve the overall health of your employee population and ultimately result in savings on health costs for your business.

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    Employee Health & Wellness

    Roxanne Leal

    Roxanne Leal is the Director of Wellness for SWBC Employee Benefits Group. She specializes in developing strategic wellness programs based on high-cost claims, survey data, and aggregate reports.

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