Content Corner: Mental Health in the Workplace

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By Aubrey Livingston, G&A Partners’ Regional Sales Director, Nashville

The mental health crisis experts warned was coming has hit with full force. The World Health Organization reports a 25% increase in general anxiety and depression worldwide because of prolonged stress during recent events.

Not surprisingly, the workplace suffers as a result. The WHO estimates 12 billion working days are lost globally to anxiety and depression. The cost? One trillion per year in lost productivity. And mental health and burnout in the workplace has been cited as a significant reason for the recent “Great Resignation.”

Businesses are responding by expanding their benefits and including mental health offerings for their employees. In a 2022 survey by Willis Towers Watson, 87% of U.S. employers indicated improving mental health benefits is a priority. Including these resources can also lead to an edge in recruiting new employees and retaining top talent. Approximately 80% of workers said they’re more likely to stay at a company that offers high-quality mental health resources in this survey by Forrester.

Mental health resources through virtual care

While employers have several options when it comes to expanding mental health benefits, one of the most convenient and cost effective options is virtual care. Offering telemedicine options – which are available by phone or video call – can expand access to services, provide employees with a convenient resource, and reduce the total cost of care.

Adoption of virtual care has increased in recent years across generations, signaling that workers are embracing telemedicine. While Gen Z and Millennials are most likely to use telemedicine options, Baby Boomers increased usage by 155% from pre- to post-pandemic, based on a survey by Advisory Board.

Employers who offer virtual care break down barriers for employees who live in areas with limited access to services. Consider that 83 million Americans live in areas with primary care shortages. For companies who are hiring a remote workforce with employees across the country, this means their employees can get help despite where they live.

For employees, virtual options such as Teladoc and Headspace are convenient. Employees can meet virtually from any location – home, office, on the road – at times that fit their schedule without sacrificing quality of service. They also save time by meeting with providers where they are, rather than driving to appointments.

In recent years, options for virtual visits have expanded beyond basic primary care. Through services such as Teladoc, employees can meet with licensed therapists for talk therapy or counseling or schedule appointments with board-certified psychiatrists. Urgent care clinics and specialty care such as for prenatal, pediatric, and cancer care also utilize telehealth visits, especially for new patient visits, follow-up appointments, and chronic disease management.

Telemedicine is also cost effective for workers and employers. Where employees choose to go for health care – a doctor’s office or urgent care clinic, for example – can significantly impact the employer’s and employee’s costs. Amongst the options employees have for place of service, telemedicine is the least expensive. Depending on the employer’s benefits plan, virtual visits can be free for employees. Compare that to visiting a specialist, which costs $135 per visit on average.

Communicating about mental health to your employees

So you’ve decided to offer telemedicine options that include mental health services for your employees. Simply offering it isn’t enough. The next step is creating a culture that stresses the importance of mental health and how you’re supporting your employees’ well-being.

Begin by providing training to your managers and leaders so they can lead with empathy and recognize when employees may be in need of help. This can help break down the stigma that often surrounds mental health, which can prevent people from seeking care.

Next, show employees that you’re supporting their mental well-being by communicating clearly and often about the mental health benefits. Consider planning a campaign four to six weeks before introducing the benefit to your employees. Determine how you’ll present the services and create collateral you can distribute that educates your employees on the resources and clearly explains how to access them.

In your campaign, help your employees understand how telemedicine can benefit them:

· It reduces their healthcare costs,

· They can take appointments from a location convenient to them,

· It saves time since there’s no driving to an office,

· It expands their access to services that may not be available nearby.

To show your company’s commitment to your employees’ mental health, communicate often during the year about the resources available to them and how they can access them. Reducing the stigma surrounding mental health and encouraging your employees to seek help when they need it will help solidify a supportive culture and lead to a more productive workforce.

By Aubrey Livingston, G&A Partners’ Regional Sales Director, Nashville

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