Despite recognizing mental health concerns, employers have not adopted broad well-being strategies yet

February 10, 2022 |

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During the pandemic, employees continue to face rising stress, burnout, and other negative effects on their well-being, as evidenced by a recent Willis Towers Watson survey finding that 86 percent of employers consider mental health, stress, and burnout to be top priorities for their organizations in 2022.

In the October 2021 study, nearly half of the 322 U.S. respondents had not yet publicly developed a well-being plan for their workforces. Employers were instead at various phases of responding to different well-being problems; for example, 48 percent said they were planning or exploring strategies or plans for behavioral health, while 34 percent said the same for financial well-being.

Employers selected mental health as one of their top priorities in 2021. Last year, % of HR executives polled by Verizon Media said mental health was the most significant influence on their workforces in the previous year. However, as the study results from Willis Towers Watson reveal, the reaction to mental health issues has not been universal.

Despite the emphasis on accessing and receiving appropriate care, organizations and their employees have found persistent impediments to well-being support. In a poll conducted by LifeWorks in 2021, 42% of workers indicated they had not accessed any mental health services provided by their workplace, with one-quarter of this group claiming they did not know how to do it due to costs or confidentiality issues.

That could explain why some businesses have focused on the financial side of access. Phenom, an HR technology company, announced last month that it will give its U.S. employees $1,000 to invest toward mental health. According to Dr. Juliette McClendon, head of medical affairs at mental health provider Big Health, many businesses have decided to take initiatives like expanding the amount of no-cost visits they have under their employee assistance programs, as stated by Willis Towers Watson.

However, raising that number will not cover all of an employee population’s needs, according to McClendon. Employers, she noted, may need to pursue broader well-being initiatives that include executive and management training on mental health access, a diverse selection of options for employees to seek care, and a proactive approach to employee well-being.

Employers must also pay attention to their employees’ preferences; “if it isn’t actually fulfilling their requirements, they aren’t going to engage,” McClendon said. She advised firms to speak with internal resource groups and their leaders to better understand what employees require.

Smaller attempts, such as prohibiting employees from sending emails after hours and instead urging them to schedule work and personal time to avoid conflicts, have previously been observed by sources who talked to HR Dive.


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