Calling All Employers to Support Mental Health
August 15, 2022
According to the American Psychological Association’s (APA) 2022 Work and Well-being Survey, eight in 10 U.S. workers say they would prefer to work for companies that provide support for mental health concerns. Of the employees surveyed, 71 percent believe employers are more concerned about the mental health of their employees now than in the past.
When asked to select from a list of a dozen possible supports that they would like to see employers offer, flexible work hours were the most chosen support at 41 percent of workers, followed by a workplace culture that respects time off at 34 percent, the ability to work remotely at 33 percent, and a four-day work week at 31 percent.
Potential Benefits of Supporting Mental Health
- Increased productivity: Research shows that nearly 86 percent of employees treated for depression report improved work performance. Also, treatment of depression has been shown to reduce absenteeism and presenteeism (lost productivity occurring when employees are not fully functioning in the workplace because of an illness, injury, or other condition) by 40 to 60 percent.
- Increased retention: In a 2019 survey of more than 1,500 employees nationwide, more than a third of the respondents said they had left a job due at least in part to mental health. Of these, 59 percent said mental health was the primary reason.
- Decreased health care and disability costs: According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, rates of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases are twice as high in adults with serious mental illness. The connection between physical health and mental health prompted the American Heart Association to release a report called Mental Health: A Workforce Crisis. It urges employers to provide comprehensive programs for the prevention and treatment of mental illness. The report found that the cost of doing nothing is higher than investing in evidence-based prevention and treatment.
Ways to Support Employee Mental Health
With these findings in mind, employees should consider implementing the following five ways to support employee mental health:
1. Understand how mental health impacts your employees.
- Make mental health training mandatory for your company’s leaders to help them be more aware of and invested in this aspect of their employees’ well-being.
- Train managers on what to do if they see signs of emotional distress or substance abuse.
- Use mental health calculators to estimate the prevalence and associated costs of untreated depression and alcohol and substance abuse at your workplace.
- Consider using surveys such as the Work Limitations Questionnaire and the Brief Job Stress Questionnaire to measure how your employees’ health and stress levels affect their productivity.
2. Include mental health coverage as part of your health care plan.
- Learn about the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. It requires insurance coverage for mental health conditions, including substance use disorders, to be no more restrictive than insurance coverage for other medical conditions.
- Avoid plans that offer “phantom” mental health coverage. And find out how many psychologists and psychiatrists are in-network.
- Provide a health savings account (HSA) to help offset out-of-pocket costs.
3. Establish an employee assistance program (EAP).
Many companies use an employee assistance program (EAP) to support workplace mental health. While some employees may be reluctant to use this resource due to fear of stigma, shame, and lack of understanding about how these confidential programs work, you can take the following actions to increase EAP usage:
- Provide direct access to mental health professionals via phone or in person.
- Offer this resource to employees as well as to their immediate family members.
- Make it easy for employees to know with whom to talk or where to go to access mental health resources.
- Emphasize that your EAP can be accessed confidentially and free of charge.
4. Use communication to reduce stigma and increase access to mental health resources.
- Don’t wait until open enrollment to mention mental health benefits and community resources. Promote them frequently, such as in monthly newsletters.
- Ensure that your executives mention emotional well-being every time they talk about recruiting talent and building an inclusive culture that helps employees bring their best selves to work.
- Offer workshops so employees can learn more about mental health and resilience.
5. Promote well-being.
- Build as much flexibility as possible into all employees’ schedules.
- Offer access to apps that can help with sleep and stress reduction.
- Consider offering a meditation room, mindfulness training, or yoga classes at work.
- Encourage employees to use their vacation time. Some companies do this by limiting the number of vacation days employees can roll over into the next year.
- Provide accommodations and develop a return-to-work process so that employees who need to take a leave of absence because of a mental health issue feel supported when they come back.
And finally, create opportunities for employees to build connections with one another, such as through social events, affinity groups, and social media platforms.
APA Survey Conclusions
The APA survey shows that the U.S. currently has a workforce that seeks improvements to mental health support at work. While the pandemic may have exacerbated stressors among workers, particularly those in marginalized communities, it also provided an opportunity for employers to take action to prioritize employee well-being.
Whether you are an employer or an employee, you can support mental health coverage as part of your company’s health care plan. At insureyouknow.org, you can document healthcare benefits that cover your mental health concerns, a list of the healthcare providers with whom you visit, and a record of prescriptions you take for physical and mental health issues.