Mental Health and the Workplace: The Trend of Mental Health Benefits Offerings

With the increased awareness of mental health disorders and the number of people seeking mental health treatment, it would stand to reason that employers are starting to take notice and find ways to improve their employee’s mental well-being.

Companies are beginning to understand that stress in the workplace cannot be overlooked or considered just part of the job. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that depression and anxiety disorders cost approximately $1 trillion in global productivity losses per year. Getting in front of this and proactively providing for their employee’s mental health needs benefits everyone involved.

Sophie Downs, writer for Inc.com, shares “today’s top employers are embracing a broad definition of ‘wellness’ and viewing stress as a health concern rather than just a cost of doing business.

They’re organizing group sessions with social workers, subsidizing employees’ therapy bills, and granting workers no-strings-attached stipends to use on massages, life coaches, vacations, and even essential oils. Some are even offering paid sabbaticals to long-serving employees.”

Angelica Levito, with CNBC.com, expands on this, “Some employers are making the treatment of mental illness a top priority — on par with combating cancer, diabetes, and other chronic ailments… Stress can cause people physical harm. Constantly worrying about work can lead to erratic eating habits and cut into exercise routines, which can lead to weight problems, high blood pressure, and higher cholesterol levels, according to the APA.”

Attending to employee’s mental health needs proactively also means likely preventing thousands of dollars in medical care for chronic illnesses that are exacerbated or caused by stress.

Employers are getting creative in their offerings and trying to meet people where they are, understanding that many of their employees may not take the initiative to schedule counseling appointments or see a psychiatrist for fear of coworkers and managers learning about their struggles. To this end, companies are starting to offer a variety of benefits that allow employees to discreetly and privately take small steps to improve their stress levels. Some employers are paying for subscriptions to apps that help with relaxation or meditation.

Telehealth is another option that seems tailor-made for addressing mental health concerns in the workplace. Employees can at their convenience “meet” with mental health providers in a chat setting or using FaceTime, never needing to take time off of work for a traditional therapist appointment.

Heather Huhman, a writer for Entrepreneur.com, says, “Offering telehealth not only provides more options regarding mental health treatment but also limits the uncomfortable explanations employees must give management about their absence… Offer counseling — online and offline — to everyone on your team. “

For great examples of employer’s that are doing big things to help their employees live a more balanced life you need look no further than companies like Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Samsung, who have been offering wellness benefits for years, providing everything from gym memberships to wellness coaching and in-office massages.

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