When it comes to addressing health, people tend to pay attention to their physical health but often overlook the body’s most complex and mysterious organ: the brain. While one in five Americans suffer from mental illness each year, only 40 percent of those suffering receive treatment. Opportunity knocks. Businesses can be a part of the solution to support employees in need of mental health services. While companies adopt health and wellness programs to support employees improving their physical health, there is an opportunity to support employee mental health goals.
$225.8 billion: the annual cost of unmanaged mental health for employers in the United States. Companies that fail to recognize the role mental health plays in employee happiness, presenteeism, and productivity can pay a steep price. Mental health issues can have an impact on physical health. Overstressed employees today, are at risk of becoming physically ill tomorrow, leading to an increase in healthcare costs.
Below is a list of four successful methods that many companies have implemented to support their employees’ mental health, and subsequently lower their healthcare costs.
1. A supportive corporate culture
“We recognized the benefit of bringing behavioral health onsite for employees and their families because it created an environment where seeking help was convenient and free of stigma.” – Frank LaBiche, director of HR, Laitram
Reduce or eliminate the stigma of mental illness by communicating your awareness, support, and commitment to employee mental health. Corporate acknowledgement allows employees to feel comfortable and safe when they seek treatment. Paired with education about mental health, effective communication campaigns increase awareness while supporting the employee. Incentive programs can also encourage preventative action by offering employees rewards for taking stress tests, mindfulness breaks, and seeing a counselor.
2. Onsite behavioral health counseling
Businesses may opt to bring counseling to their employees through an onsite health center. By doing so, businesses provide easy, accessible, and affordable behavioral health services to employees at or near the worksite. Onsite health allows for strong employee engagement, improved health outcomes, and comprehensive reporting tools. Analytics and reporting track the utilization and impact of the onsite health center by assessing patient experience, health improvement, ROI, and reduced healthcare costs.
3. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)
Employers offer EAPs to help employees find short-term professional mental health counseling to alleviate work and personal issues. EAPs generally limit counseling to just 6 to 8 sessions per year. Regular, proactive communication to employees about the availability of the EAP resource is recommended since EAPs are often underutilized because of their offsite or telephonic nature.
4. Exercise challenges
Physical activity is one of the most effective ways to reduce stress, depression, and anxiety. Encouraging and incentivizing exercise in your workplace (i.e. through an onsite fitness center; free yoga classes; group fun runs; etc.) is a great way to improve both the physical and mental wellbeing of your employees, at little to no cost.
“I needed a jumpstart. My company offered a 12-week weight loss challenge and I was determined to win it…not just for the health-inspired prizes like a Fitbit, but for ME! As the Parks and Recreation Director for the City of Loveland, I want to model a healthy lifestyle for my staff. In 12 weeks I lost 17.5 pounds and won first place in the challenge.” – Elizabeth, City of Loveland
Employees can improve when they are empowered to take control of their health. By offering support, acceptance, and acknowledgement, businesses can shift the overall health of their workforce – and reduce healthcare costs.