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Why employee mental health is your concern

Opinion

Andrew McNeil (andrewm@arrowbenefitsgroup.com, 707-992-3789) and Rosario Avila (rosarioa@arrowbenefitsgroup.com, 707-992-3795) are senior benefits advisers at Arrow Benefits Group in Petaluma.

Mental health directly effects productivity and hence your bottom line - no wonder this trending topic is at the forefront of our minds and corporate agenda.

According to Glassdoor, “More than four in 10 working adults (44%) say their current job has an impact on their overall health, and 43% report their job has a negative impact on their levels of stress” — and that was in 2018, before COVID-19! Of course, things have only gotten worse as the pandemic continues to emotionally drain us.

We’ve battled with lockdowns, mask mandates, social isolation, (mis)communication issues, and employee–employer judgments over personal choices and behaviors, assumptions, and mistrust. The issue of supporting employee mental health has become a priority for workplace sanity, and employees are seriously looking for support with mental health needs.

It’s your opportunity

Employers who don’t step-up when employees ask for more mental health support tend to take a similar attitude with all other employee requests.

We’ve found that the workers at such organizations generally feel like cogs in the wheel; they’re usually unhappy with the direction of the organization, only looking at their job to put food on the table and pay bills.

We can no longer gloss over mental health issues

When we are in physical pain we go to a doctor. But when workers experience burnout, depression, isolation, insecurity, and anxiety, they unfortunately tend keep it to themselves. In a recent Forbes.com article surveying workers and CEOs from across the nation, the majority agree that poor employee mental health negatively impacts productivity.

Also:

• 92% of CEOs report their companies have increased focus on mental health because of the pandemic.

• Most CEOs believe they’re doing enough for employee mental health, yet only 69% of employees feel the same.

• 94% of CEOs report having received mental health support themselves over the past year. They said talking about mental health makes them a better leader and nearly 90% of their employees appreciate it — despite some concern it might impact their credibility.

The bottom line is, as a business leader, it’s vital to address this issue.

Different beliefs on mental health in the workplace

We see client leadership in three different camps:

• It’s not our responsibility.

• Know it’s an issue but don’t know where to begin.

• Think they are doing enough but don’t understand how deep the issue goes.

Most employers we work with want to help, but don’t know where to begin. Many wonder whether having an employee assistance program (EAP) is enough?

Prior to the pandemic, mental health wasn’t talked about openly the way it is now. Though many employers offered an EAP, it was often poorly communicated to employees and ended up being underutilized.

To enhance mental health services, employers:

• Purchased enhanced EAPs with more than the standard three visits annually, which employees can use in addition to their original three provider visits.

• Revamped vacation policies to offer “me” days that do not come off an employee’s vacation or sick time.

• Offered flexible time and fully support a remote work program.

• Gone to a four-day work week.

• Offered additional support products, such as memberships to Calm, a gym, yoga, self-improvement and other classes and seminars.

Like anything else, when an employer communicates any benefit enhancements effectively, they pay off. In general, employees seeing the improvements being made on their behalf are happy their employer is trying. They feel heard and, as with many things, that feeling of being valued is worth much more than the benefits themselves.

Hiring an internal therapist for employees

This idea deserves your attention if you wish to support your staff — and want their productivity to soar. While mental health services aren’t always apples-to-apples, and the services vary by provider, employers should see this as an opportunity to provide something meaningful to their employees’ well-being.

We see that some employers that are seriously exploring this option. Their plans include having a therapist in-house, with office hours that an employee can schedule. On top of adding this to their arsenal of benefits, these employers are also offering at least one traditional EAP.

For better or worse, this is a time in our business culture where helping an employee with their mental health is not just an employer’s responsibility, it’s an opportunity to stand out by how you care for your people.

The evidence is clear to us: Employers who are doing what they can to help their workforce (in all categories) have improved their employee attraction, retention rate and, most importantly, productivity, attitude, and loyalty. In the current work environment, that’s hard to pass up.

Opinion

Andrew McNeil (andrewm@arrowbenefitsgroup.com, 707-992-3789) and Rosario Avila (rosarioa@arrowbenefitsgroup.com, 707-992-3795) are senior benefits advisers at Arrow Benefits Group in Petaluma.

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