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Employees are seeking out companies with strong mental health support systems in place. Benefits access is a leading deciding factor for which job offer to accept, and whether they remain in that job.
As a result, employers with better benefits packages set up their teams to be more successful, because they have access to mental health support when they’re struggling, at work or in their personal lives.
Employers also benefit from better benefits
The return on investment for benefits is often discussed in the business world as soft savings, something that isn’t as tangible for business leaders. But newer research shows that having a comprehensive mental health benefit actually results in productivity increases, reduction in insurance claims, and lower spend from health plans.
Having the right benefits and employee support is an important part of ROI for organizations, along with supporting employee mental health and wellbeing.
Where are employee benefits headed in 2023?
During the pandemic, mental health and employee wellbeing were at the forefront of everyone’s mind. The pandemic made it clear how important mental health is to our daily lives and everyone was eager to have conversations about how mental health support could be implemented into benefits packages for workers.
The stigma of talking about mental health disappeared for a while as we collectively struggled with our emotions and were all willing to say that we weren’t okay, both in the workplace and in our personal lives.
Although the pandemic accelerated public discourse around mental health, it’s really easy to forget how we felt during that time. Now that there’s concern about inflation, a recession, instability, and tech layoffs, there’s understandably a temptation to tighten budgets.
Which means that companies have to be strategic about how they’re offering benefits, how effective those benefits are, and what kind of ROI they’re getting.
7 mental health benefits trends for 2023
What I’m hearing, when I have conversations with business, HR, and People leaders, is that they want to have best-in-class health care and mental health support for their team members. They recognize what a difference it makes to the overall health, company culture, and productivity of their workforce.
The most frequent questions I hear are, “what type of support does my organization need? What should I focus on?”
There are several specific benefit areas where HR and business leaders have identified needs within their organization, including:
- Family and child benefits
- Substance use disorder treatment
- On-site dedicated provider programs
- Crisis response support
- Measurement based care to address rising health spend
- Expanding mental health benefits
Let’s dig into these benefits trends, which I think will be important for employees during the next year.
Family and child benefits
Many employees and their families are still adjusting to the impact of the pandemic and all the upheaval it caused. Kids are back in school and many employees are back in the office. But the remnants of pandemic insecurities and the effects of isolation are still present.
Many employees continue to need support with getting their kids help with mental health conditions, and support for raising children with developmental differences:
- More children are being diagnosed with mental health conditions, especially depression and anxiety disorders
- A recent study conducted by the CDC found that one in six children aged 3-17 years old had a diagnosis for developmental differences, such as autism spectrum disorder and ADHD
Supporting children’s health and wellbeing is obviously important on its own. At the same time, for working parents, being able to thrive in the workplace is contingent upon knowing that their children are getting help for any mental or physical health issues they’re having.
This support should also include employees who are raising neurodiverse kids. For example:
- Providing childcare subsidies. Costs for specialized childcare facilities, occupational therapists, and other medical costs add up quickly.
- Fostering connection and support for parents. ERGs and workplace support groups to promote connection through shared experience.
- Respecting scheduling boundaries.
Substance use disorder treatment
We’ve also seen an increase in substance use disorders (SUDs). This was already a widespread issue pre-COVID, and it has only gotten worse over the past three years, with drug overdoses soaring during that time.
National data shows that 13.6 million workers have an SUD. So SUD treatment is definitely another area that we need to be mindful about, ensuring that employers are offering high quality care for employees who need treatment, which includes:
- Connecting employees with high quality treatment options, including intensive outpatient care, when needed
- Support with medication assisted treatment
- Education about SUDs and how they’re connected with mental health
- Addressing stigma around getting help for SUDs
On-site dedicated provider programs
I’ve noticed a real need and desire among organizations to have their own in-house mental health provider who is established with the company, understands the history and culture of the specific organization, and who’s available to support employees in a variety of ways.
There is a huge overall need for one-on-one therapy. But there’s also a lot of other areas that a dedicated, on-site provider can help with. For example:
- Working with the executive team and supervisors on leadership training
- Crafting and sending out messaging around destigmatizing mental health and SUD treatment
- Group leadership and discussions
- Mental health education
- Facilitating mental health and emotional wellness within a company culture in such a way that suits the specifics of that particular organization
- One entry point, so that employees know where to go if they’re struggling or if there’s an issue
Critical incident stress management
Unfortunately, the workplace is not a safe haven from trauma. Having an on-site therapist to support employees during traumatic events is a game changer for mental health in the workplace.
Here are some examples, many of which have been in the news recently, of events for which it’s critical to have on-site support from a mental health professional who can help employees process their feelings and cope with related trauma:
- Death of a team member
- Workplace violence
- Reduction in force
- Shootings, racial violence or other forms of social upheaval
- Natural disasters: Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, fires
Addressing rising health spend with more efficient care
With tighter budgets in the face of layoffs, economic instability and a possible recession, benefits buyers want to see data regarding ROI and clinical outcomes to ensure that the money they’re spending is actually helping employees.
The mental health industry in particular is moving toward measurement-based care by:
- Finding ways to match people to the right care from the beginning
- Measuring clinical outcomes as a routine part of care
- Using data to determine when treatment is effective
- Eliminating trial-and-error in care
Expanding employee mental health benefits
A recent APA survey showed that 81% of workers say that how employers support mental health will be an important factor when job seeking in the future.
Many employers are looking to expand their mental health benefits in 2023, according to a recent survey. This is definitely a trend to keep in mind as HR and benefits leaders are thinking about what’s important for employees in the upcoming year.
What HR and benefit leaders need to know
A common thread throughout the trends I’m seeing in our employee populations is the importance of having quality, dedicated support behind each and every individual and for each organization.
That’s the bottom line for organizations who want to promote employee wellbeing through the benefits we’ve been discussing. Some other things to consider:
- The importance of having a single point of contact. When employees aren’t sure about how they’re feeling or if someone is struggling with a specific medical or mental health diagnosis, it’s best if there’s one, well known entry point to getting care.
- Ensuring that employees are always aware of what the next best steps are that they can take to get help.
- Best in class mental health benefits are becoming more of a differentiator for attracting and retaining employees.
How Spring Health enhances employee benefit packages
Spring Health’s comprehensive mental health benefit addresses employee needs that will be prominent for job seekers and for employee retention in the upcoming year.
Here’s what we’re delivering to organizations around the globe:
- Fast access to whole family mental healthcare, including therapy for children as young as six years old.
- Quality SUD treatment: assessment for where the employee is at on the SUD spectrum, and within 24 hours a licensed clinician will reach out and get them started on the road to recovery, including connecting them with inpatient residential treatment.
- On-site dedicated provider program: if an employee has a child at home who is struggling or they’re concerned about substance use, they have a dedicated team of in-house clinicians who can help direct them to whatever benefit is most useful. I hear time and time again how important having that point of contact is.
- Critical incident stress management: Spring Health offers both on-site and virtual support for employees following internal crises events (workplace violence, employee death or layoffs) or external crises events (mass shootings, natural disasters) within two hours.
- Precision mental healthcare: eliminating trial and error care, proven ROI, and improvement in employee wellbeing in 5.8 weeks.
In 2023, stay curious, ask questions, and listen actively
If there’s one set of things I could tell HR or benefits leaders, it’s this: creating a strategy for approaching employee mental health really depends on asking a lot of questions to figure out how to best support an organization or business. Each company is a unique organism with its own set of needs.
Figuring out how to keep that organism healthy requires actively listening to both internal and external feedback and then using that feedback to search for the right benefits provider.
It’s worth it to take those extra steps. The right benefits provider can make a big difference in employee’s lives, allowing them to thrive both in the workplace, and in their personal lives.
There are exciting things happening with mental health treatment as well. Discover the six trends you need to know about this year.