Health benefits

Employees increasingly see mental health benefits as essential, but their bosses are lagging behind


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In the grip of a global pandemic and in the aftermath of a year of social unrest, employees, especially younger ones, increasingly see their mental health support as the responsibility of their employers – and some are ready to step back if they feel that it is insufficiently provided. for.

This is the main point to remember from a new investigation of 702 U.S. employees, 513 managers, 250 senior executives and 250 HR leaders led by Forrester Research and commissioned by behavioral health support company Modern Health.

Seventy-nine percent of non-executives and 81% of executives said they “would be more likely to stay with a company that provides me with high quality resources to take care of my mental health.” For employees aged 18 to 29, this share rose to 86%. And 19% of non-executives and 36% of executives said poor mental health support from employers during the pandemic is currently causing them to consider leaving.

But situational awareness seems to deteriorate as one goes up. Only 58% of all leaders (managers and executives) are concerned about leaving employees due to insufficient mental health support during the pandemic. Some 85% of executives and HR managers report providing sufficient mental health support, with 87% reporting the best possible mental health support.

More worryingly, 67% of C-Suite executives and 54% of human resources managers say they plan to return their mental health to what it was before the pandemic, citing concerns about shorter work hours. and a desire to prioritize other benefits.

“I think what the report shows is that philosophically the leaders are there,” Steve Cadigan, author of Workquake: embrace the aftershocks of COVID-19 to create a better work model, said at a press event on the research. “Yes, we know we have to do something, and it’s no surprise to hear that they think they’re doing better than they are.

“It’s sort of always been the case, leaders think they are doing better than them. But I wonder if part of this is due to the lack of meeting employee expectations around ‘What is this like- whether we are delivering this effectively at scale? And “Where are the role models that we can take inspiration from to show us how we can do this effectively?” “”

Cadigan also hypothesized that the lingering stigma surrounding mental health may be contributing to the disconnection.

“What happens to workers when they’ve never worked from home before is that the first question is, ‘How does my boss know I’m delivering? I’d better work more and show more.’ “, did he declare. “And now you are creating a potential death spiral. And so there is uneasiness in raising that … It [are] feeling of guilt, feeling of inadequacy. It’s a very, very complex network that I think can contribute to not actively expressing that beyond maybe other requirements that people want from their employer. “

In terms of concrete offers, 45% of employees say they have mental health services in their medical plan, 32% say they have access to individual advice outside of their medical plan, 28% have access to advice by text or by chat outside of their medical plan and 16% have access to a wellness or meditation app through their employer.

Effects of insufficient mental health support

Although they did not align with the sufficiency of current offerings, employers and employees agreed on the benefits of mental health support, with 62% of employees (including managers) and 65% of senior executives and HR managers stating that employee mental health support improves productivity.

In addition, 72% of managers say that a lack of mental health support for direct reports makes their job more difficult, and 49% feel a lack of clarity about their role in providing mental health support.

“What we see time and time again is that managers are like, ‘I’m supposed to be doing this. I am not a therapist. Am I supposed to be a therapist? “” said Myra Altman, vice president of clinical care at Modern Health. “And what we usually say – we do a lot of training for managers – is please don’t be a therapist. It’s not your role.

“But what we would like you to do is be able to see when someone is in trouble, be able to set the tone for psychological safety, take care of yourself and know where to refer people. And know how. step things up. If you see a trend that everyone on your team is really struggling, how do you share that? and how do you scale that up so that it can be factored into a larger strategic decision-making ? “

Young employees are more optimistic

Employees were also asked about three optimistic predictions for the future: with business leaders being more open about their own mental health to dispel stigma, virtual mental health becoming more common than in person, or the benefits to the community. mental health becoming a legal requirement.

For each of these predictions, less than half of employees agreed with them, but the virtual care prediction fared better than the other two, and employees between the ages of 18 and 29 were a few points more optimistic than the other two. their older peers.

“Overall, the numbers are slightly higher in the younger age group, so they may be feeling the most optimistic or maybe they have the most clarity on what they want. The future of work looks like and about the kinds of things they think should be. a part of the future of work, ”said Cynthia Castro Sweet, senior director of clinical research at Modern Health.

Employees in this youngest age cohort were also the most optimistic about integrating mental health offerings with technology, with 54% wanting to see employer-provided meditation apps, with 50% wanting to see employer-provided meditation apps. Mental health integrations with workplace discussion / collaboration tools, and 40% interested in employer-provided time management and productivity tools.