The Importance of Supporting the Mental Health of Your Workforce

February 23, 2022

The subject of mental health goes beyond the professional realms and into everyday life for many individuals and their families. This has been a topic of discussion for employers for the last several years with the realization that it’s an issue that affects each one of us and our families and includes our ability to be present and productive at work. As our firm looked at the state of the market before the COVID pandemic, nearly 9 out of 10 employers were concerned with employee access to behavioral health services, and of those who participated in the National Business Group on Health/Optum Well-being Survey in 2019, 88% said they had plans to address the stigma surrounding mental health in 2020. The challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic that hit just a month after our initial state of the market review, created an even deeper need for employers to pay attention to their employees behavioral health.

Serious men and women sitting in a circle during group therapy, supporting each other.

We now have nearly two years of pandemic-related challenges under our belts, and to set the stage, just about one out of every two people have reported a decline in their mental health as a result of the pandemic. Employees are now directly asking, and honestly expecting their employers to show up for them, by ranking mental health as the second most important benefit beyond traditional medical insurance. Considering the high turnover rate so many organizations are experiencing, the “great resignation” if you will—it’s interesting to consider that among the many things that could impact someone’s mental health, job change, reduction, or loss is being shown to lead not only to increased levels of depression and anxiety but also to COVID-19 more generally.

The reality we are facing is that the impact of the mental health crisis will outlast this pandemic, which is pushing employers to focus on new solutions in this space. The impact of that is significant with an estimated global cost of mental health disorders expected to be more than $6 trillion by 2030. Why? It’s important to understand that well-being is directly connected to the productivity, performance, and engagement level of employees. All of which drive revenue and success for their organizations. Medical and behavioral conditions have high rates of co-occurrence, particularly with chronic medical conditions.

This is why it’s critical for organizations to hone in on the ways that they can support the mental and physical health of their workforce. The overwhelming amount of data showing increases in mental health issues across demographics, psychographics, and geographies paints the full picture of a mental health care crisis. So employers and HR professionals will need to address mental health as a permanent fixture of benefits moving forward. The reality is, it’s equally important for employers to acknowledge how these benefits are viewed, as there is often a stark difference between how management feels about the support their organization offers compared to how employees actually feel they’re supported.

Effective psychotherapy. Young black guy talking to his psychologist, receiving professional help at mental health clinic. African American male patient sharing therapy results with counselor

One of the main drivers of turnover is burnout, a particularly difficult challenge for employers who may still be managing remote workforces, and yet still something all employers need to address. How? By ensuring managers and leaders understand the signs of employee burnout and the tools they may have to deploy to support their employees like an employee assistance program (EAP), tele-behavioral health, support groups, and open dialogue to support their employees. Employers have a variety of tools available that they can choose to leverage and share with their management teams and employees to support improved mental health whether training for managers, more communications on available benefits, or third-party provided solutions.

And more broadly, addressing these needs means acknowledging that mental health needs vary significantly person-to-person; including a need for employers to increasingly recognize the unique make up of their specific organizations, both from a mental health standpoint and also from the many facets that we think of related to diversity equity and inclusion (DE&I). While mental health was once a taboo subject, it’s time we bring it fully into the light, and as employers acknowledge that mental health truly touches everything. It’s important for your employees to know what you offer, and for organizations to see the challenges of our colleagues as an opportunity to really meet the needs of our employees during this critical time.

What are you seeing in your organizations related to mental well-being or employee burnout? Today nearly 70% of employers are saying mental health is the most important benefit beyond traditional insurance – do you agree? Is that true in your organization? I’d love to know how you and your connections are viewing this latest challenge to our workforce and your organizations. Let me know at [email protected].

Welcome to Carlozo’s Corner! I’m Anthony Carlozo, a client executive at Marsh McLennan Agency (MMA), the employee benefits division of Marsh.

At Marsh McLennan Agency, I work with organizations of all sizes to help them minimize their risk and maximize the value of their benefits programs.

Here I’ll be sharing insights about a current market trend and the strategies I’m seeing employers adopt to adapt to today’s evolving business landscape.