How to select the right mental health benefits for global teams
Depression and anxiety conditions cost the global economy an estimated $1 trillion yearly in lost productivity. By 2030, this will exceed $6 trillion, an amount greater than that associated with any other non-communicable disease.
This indicates that the success of an organization may depend on how well they support the mental health of their employees. Yet, although most employers recognize the need for investment in mental health benefits, finding the right solution that supports a diverse workforce can often be difficult.
A recent study commissioned by Modern Health and conducted by Forrester Consulting revealed that 74% of employees want their employer to care about their mental health. Still, fewer than one in three employees who enrolled in any mental health benefits feel that it meets their needs. To provide employees with high-quality mental health benefits, employers should consider the barriers to adoption and how to improve accessibility for users.
When launching or augmenting mental health benefits across a global organization, it's important to define what you hope to achieve and understand the changes most beneficial for employees in a global workforce. By offering high-quality benefits that address the current landscape around mental health in your organization, you can break down barriers to mental health care and improve adoption rates to recognize a higher return on investment.
Here’s what to consider when rolling out global mental health benefits.
There are various reasons organizations decide to expand or launch mental health benefits. Common organizational goals include the desire to recruit top talent, develop and improve employee retention strategies, meet social responsibilities, and improve workplace culture. No matter your reason, employees need to feel that their well-being is important, so your goals for mental health benefits must reflect your desire to improve the employee experience.
High engagement and utilization of benefits are vital for approval from shareholders and other decision-makers. By defining clear goals for your investment in mental health care, you can achieve greater buy-in on a local level.
Understanding the current landscape around mental health in your organization is crucial to providing benefits that are accessible and most likely to be adopted by your employees. What are the attitudes surrounding mental health in your organization? What do your employees want from their mental health coverage?
Determining the answers to such questions requires a global approach as countries and regions can vary. For example, mental health stigma is much higher in Eastern countries.
To create a global mental health strategy that makes sense for your organization, you'll need to consider the best ways to gather the right data to ensure changes and first-time rollouts meet the needs of your employees. Surveys are crucial in this information-gathering stage. Having utilization and engagement benchmarks is also important to understanding your current position and defining where you want to be.
Many organizations still have a lot of stigma around mental health. In fact, in previously mentioned research, only 51% of employees feel safe in their role if their mental health status were to be revealed.
Workplace mental health stigma can manifest in many ways. Employees feel uncomfortable seeking help for anxiety or depression because they fear it will jeopardize their job security.
Opening lines of communication, transparency and advocacy around mental health and well-being will create a more open culture and help improve the adoption of mental health benefits. This is not a one-time discussion. It requires consistent, ongoing effort to maintain a culture that doesn't shy away from mental health challenges.
Regarding mental health, every individual has unique preferences and needs for receiving care. Many traditional health benefit plans or employer assistance programs (EAPs) only offer one care modality, such as through one-on-one therapy. Yet research has found that fewer than 44% of employees prefer one-on-one as their preferred mode of care.
Effective mental health care requires a multifaceted approach. To gauge the quality of a mental health solution, employers must consider the number of modalities of care they offer to employees.
A robust mental health benefit should offer support beyond traditional therapy, such as self-guided care or group sessions. Offering a range of support gives employees the autonomy to personalize their care in a way that best works for them.
Every employee should have access to mental health care that best fits their needs. Some individuals may have higher acuity needs requiring medication management and in-person therapy. Others may have lower acuity needs best supported by self-paced programs or coaching.
Another individual might have moderate needs and require a blend of care modalities. This is the full spectrum of mental well-being; one size does not fit all.
Consider whether the mental health solution you're considering offers evidence-based care for a wide range of mental health needs from low-to-high acuity. This approach is better for employees and helps companies save money when therapy and medication support aren't necessary interventions. According to a 2021 clinical research study, leveraging coaching when appropriate can yield similar results to therapy at ⅓ of the cost.
Discussions around mental health have often carried a sense of stigma in organizations. Stigma in the workplace is especially problematic when workplace culture doesn't foster a sense of acceptance and support for mental health. According to Modern Health's new Modern Belonging Playbook, belonging is not only a psychological need but a connection that empowers employees to show up authentically in the workplace, resulting in greater engagement, creativity, and productivity.
As workplace mental health becomes a bigger priority for employers, it's important to select a mental health solution that can help create a culture of well-being in the workplace. To determine whether your benefits will accomplish this, assess whether the mental health solution offers resources to engage employees in a remote work environment. You also should consider whether they support facilitating activities and conversations that de-stigmatize mental health and nurture a sense of safety and belonging at work.
As organizations increasingly depend on a distributed workforce, mental health benefits must support the needs of a culturally diverse workforce. By ensuring that your mental health solution supports employees regardless of location, you can expand your diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts while helping boost the utilization of benefits.
This is a multi-pronged process that requires several considerations. Before deciding, determine whether a mental health solution can support a global team and offer care in their preferred language, local time zones, or cultural background.
Learn whether the mental health solution you're considering has protocols to partner with licensed therapists who use evidence-based practices or coaches who are fully certified. Ask for the average wait time for an employee to match with a provider and whether the mental health solution offers ongoing training to ensure their providers are practicing the most up-to-date mental health care practices.
To break down barriers to care, it's equally important to create local mental health advocates. It's important to have mental health advocates in each locale/regional office to ensure you're getting the most accurate pulse of where things stand, including attitudes toward mental health care, challenges, and how employees are affected by current events. Additionally, these designated advocates or task forces are invaluable in helping find practical ways to support employees across different cultures and regions.
Offering benefits that employees don't use is expensive. The average engagement of employer assistance programs (EAPs) is only 5.5%. Such programs are only meeting the needs of a fraction of the workforce.
This is why selecting a mental health solution that offers a multifaceted approach and breaks down barriers to access and use of the benefits is imperative. As a benchmark, organizations can achieve average engagement rates as high as 20% for mental health solutions like Modern Health.
Previously mentioned data shows that three factors influence whether employees will utilize a mental health benefit when offered to them. They include mental health stigma, awareness of care options, and the ability to access and use benefits easily.
By gathering relevant organizational data and breaking down barriers to care, employers can provide improved mental health benefits that are more likely to be adopted by employees and offer a higher ROI. If you'd like additional support to select the right mental health solution, download our guide to save time and get the information you need to develop a competitive mental health benefits package for your global workforce.
Dr. Cynthia Castro Sweet is the senior director of clinical research at Modern Health.
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