How Can Organizations Better Support Employees’ Mental Health and Wellness?

How Can Organizations Better Support Employees’ Mental Health and Wellness?

A survey released last week found that many employers may be underestimating the impact of mental health and substance abuse problems on their workforce. Amanda Eisenberg reports at Employee Benefit News:

In the “Mental Health and Substance Abuse Benefits” survey of 247 U.S. employers conducted by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, more than three in five (64%) organizations said that less than 30% of their workforce is affected by mental health or substance abuse issues. About one quarter of employers said they were unsure if their employees were impacted by these issues at all. In fact, about one in five American adults suffer from mental illness, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, and one in 10 American adults suffer from substance abuse, according to the Open Society Institute.

The survey found that 91 percent of employers offered an employee assistance program (EAP) that provides employees access to assessment, counseling, or mental health services, but few employees are taking advantage of these programs:

The number of employees using an employee assistance program make up between 1% and 6% of the workforce, according to the study. A smaller percentage of employers offer wellness programs with a mental health or substance abuse component (38%) or a stress-management program (23%), according to the survey. While an employee might suffer from one or more conditions, not all conditions are covered under an EAP.

Progressive organizations continue to invest in wellness or wellbeing programs that meet workforce needs through a more targeted but still extensive portfolio of features. CEB’s assessment of employee preferences regarding these programs shows that employees expect their employer to address all their wellbeing needs, and most employers do: 83 percent of polled organizations said they were offering emotional and/or mental wellbeing programs. Emotional wellbeing has become a “traditional” element of the wellbeing portfolio, and in turn, employees are less forgiving in the absence of such an offering.

Leading organizations define their wellbeing models by assessing the organization’s capabilities and identifying their unique workforce needs. Our analysis finds that organizations can improve the relevance of wellbeing offerings by collecting and analyzing employee mental health data (e.g. insurance claims) and other employee data (e.g. focus groups, surveys) to identify needs specific to their own workforce. According to CEB’s 2015 Inside-Out Rewards study, organizations can drive a 3 percent lift in performance by meeting emotional needs through total rewards. Addressing emotional needs has a particular impact on employees in entry and mid-level roles. (CEB Total Rewards Leadership Council members can read the full study here.)

When it comes to the low usage rate of EAPs, our research indicates that improved communications could help ensure that more employees take advantage of the benefits available to them. The CEB Total Rewards Leadership Council’s latest study on benefits communications, which members can read in full here, found that only 33 percent of organizations believed their communications were successful at encouraging employees to be informed consumers of their benefits. Carefully selecting the right communication content, channel, and source are the keys to making a well-designed program truly effective. When employees find their benefits to be relevant to them personally, they are more likely to consume their benefits and have higher perceptions of their organization’s benefit offerings. That, in turn, drives greater talent outcomes.