It wasn’t long ago that any mention of mental health in the workplace was frowned upon. For the millions of Americans struggling with mental illness, the thought of opening up is almost as scary as the illness itself. Well, that’s changing—in large part due to the significant uptick in mental illness during the COVID-19 pandemic. For the first time, businesses are recognizing the pandemic within the pandemic and addressing it with changes and employee benefits. For businesses that haven’t already done this or are struggling to figure out how to evolve, here are five benefits necessary to create a workplace conducive to well-being.
Mental Health Benefits in the Workplace
Benefit #1: Access to Wellness Apps
Giving your employees access to wellness apps (either free or at a discounted price) is a great way to introduce mental health benefits. There are many apps available, the majority of which are intuitive and will require little bandwidth and resources to get up and running. Headspace and Calm are two of the better-known apps and offer packages for businesses. However, other options, like Happify, can be impactful. Telehealth counseling apps like Talkspace and BetterHelp can also play a role in creating a workplace conducive to well-being.
Benefit #2: Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
An employee assistance program (EAP) is a work-based intervention program designed to help employees resolve personal problems affecting their performance. While businesses traditionally used EAPs for alcohol and substance abuse issues, they now assist employees with other issues, including their mental health. Offering an EAP with a mental-health angle is critical.
Benefit #3: Mental Health Coverage
Like how EAPs weren’t always used to address mental health, healthcare plans didn’t either. Today, businesses are making sure that the healthcare plans they offer consider mental illnesses, too. These plans have coverage specifically for mental-health-related services, including psychiatry and psychology appointments and in- and out-patient treatment.
Benefit #4: Culture
Culture isn’t necessarily a tangible benefit, but it’s still worth noting. In fact, creating a mental-health-friendly workplace is arguably the most important “benefit” businesses can offer. If an employee is worried about their job security or concerned about how others will view them if they speak out, the more tangible benefits, like EAPs and well-being apps, will be for naught. With mental health and illness so prevalent today, businesses must accept that this is real and encourage their employees to speak up if they’re struggling.
Benefit #5: Flexibility
Many mental health issues stem from work-life balance. Rather than forcing employees to choose between their personal and professional lives, employers should give them the flexibility to do what’s necessary to keep everything running smoothly. This could mean letting them work from home when they need to or the flexibility to take their child to the doctors at a moment’s notice.
Companies Already Bringing Mental Health Benefits into the Workplace
As the pandemic continues to upend life, it’s not surprising to see some of the world’s biggest companies stepping up to help their employees. A recent survey of 256 companies found that 53% of employers are providing special emotional and mental health programs for their employees. For example, Starbucks gives employees and their family members 20 free counseling sessions a year, while Target is expanding its offering of online mental health resources.
There’s no denying that mental health in the workplace is something all businesses must take seriously. Some of the world’s biggest ones, like Target and Starbucks, are already doing that. Other companies should follow suit. Not only is this the right thing to do, but research points to the fact that mental health employee benefits are good for business, too. It’s a win-win.