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Benchmarking Tips to Assess Employee Mental Health Benefits

Get actionable tips that will demystify the benefits benchmarking process.

Creating a workplace where employees feel genuinely supported and valued, both in terms of their professional growth and overall well-being, can have a profound effect.  In this environment, organizations thrive, attracting and retaining top talent while fostering a positive workplace. 

As awareness around mental health continues to grow, it's no surprise that employees now consider it a top priority in the workplace. In fact, 87% of employees want their employer to care about their mental health, while nearly 80% of employees are more likely to stay at a company that provides quality mental health benefits. To effectively support your workforce and retain your employees, it’s vital to provide accessible mental health benefits that meet all employees’ needs. But how can you be sure your benefits solution is effective? 

Enter benchmarking.

Benchmarking is a strategy where you compare services, utilization, and engagement to ensure quality and continuous improvement. It helps assess your mental health benefits solution while identifying coverage gaps and determining ROI using measurable data. 

Keep reading to explore the importance of mental health benefits, their effectiveness in the workplace, and the benefits of benchmarking.

Mental Health Benefits in the Workplace

According to the World Health Organization, every $1 invested into treatment for common mental concerns can result in a $4 return. Employees who feel their mental and emotional well-being is supported at work may bring more energy or focus to their work, translating into reduced healthcare spend for employers. 

If employees experience less stress, they may be more productive and come to work with more regularity, as they will be less likely to succumb to the wide range of chronic conditions and illnesses brought on by unmanaged stress. 

Untreated mental health concerns are estimated to cost US employers $100 billion annually—a hit to the bottom line few can afford. To reduce these financial impacts, companies must proactively provide benefits that better support employee mental health.

Advantages of Offering Mental Health Benefits

Nearly 80% of employees believe they can successfully avoid chronic mental health concerns if encouraged to prioritize their mental health. By providing accessible mental health benefits to employees, regardless of where they sit on the care spectrum, employers can improve employee well-being at work. 

As a result, employees: 

  • Are generally happy at work
  • Have a sense of meaning and purpose
  • Are encouraged to use effective skills while being challenged to grow
  • Have space to navigate both personal and work-related challenges
  • Are part of a positive community they want to contribute to

Employers who invest in employee mental health see measurable returns on investments. A recent Modern Health study found that retention was 5.5% higher among employees who engaged with our services than those who did not. This means an employer with 1,000 employees could see savings of up to $550K.

Beyond the savings of reduced turnover, accessible mental health services, like those we offer, can help employers avoid the costs of lost productivity (up to $210 billion annually) and employee burnout (up to $322 billion a year globally). 

Purpose of Benefits Benchmarking

Ensuring employees receive quality care and achieve better health outcomes is critical for improved ROI and reduced business costs. Unfortunately, if employees never use their benefits, no one sees any return. 

For example, despite their widespread use, most Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) have only 5.5% reported engagement, predominantly because employees may not find them helpful in meeting their mental and emotional needs. As a result, these programs can be a poor investment for employers. 

Benefits benchmarking helps employers understand the returns on benefits investment in terms of how solutions are being used, whether that’s utilization, engagement, or even simple awareness.  HR leaders and total rewards directors will gather internal data from benefits dashboards and anonymized qualitative reports to compare against current benefits offerings across their industry. This comparison allows them to see how their benefits packages stack up against competitors—remember: mental health benefits are a key advantage for retention strategies. Failing to meet industry standards for these benefits may cost you turnover. 

A thorough benchmarking report will allow you to make the business case for necessary changes to mental health benefits packages or other current services in hopes of matching employees with care they’ll use. 

Understanding Mental Health Benefits

Not all mental health benefits are created equal. Some may be limited in the quality of care provided, while others may not adequately address the needs of those with clinical concerns. This is where benefits benchmarking plays a crucial role in identifying the strengths and weaknesses of your existing mental health benefits.

Personalized mental health benefits, like those offered by Modern Health, cater to various aspects of well-being, including cultural, linguistic, and other social and environmental needs. With our services, employees receive support whether they require clinical-level assistance or prefer a self-guided approach.

By employing benefits benchmarking, you can transition from traditional EAPs to a more customized solution that meets the diverse needs of your workforce. This process allows you to understand why certain mental health benefits may not be a good investment and highlights the need to pursue alternative avenues that are both effective and accessible. By providing employees with the care they need, you foster a healthier work environment, making it a worthwhile and impactful investment.

Assessing Your Current Mental Health Benefits

When assessing mental health benefits, it's essential to investigate all the elements of the plan that provide value to employees, such as time-to-care, quality of services available, and availability of both. Some areas to analyze include: 

  • Member access to services
  • Speed to service
  • Reported overall improved well-being from employees
  • Organization-wide satisfaction with services
  • Improved productivity
  • Improved employee retention
  • Reduced healthcare spend

Identify Gaps in Benefits Engagement and Coverage

After evaluating your current mental health benefits , you can identify areas for improvement.  Through careful analysis of the value employees derive from the provided benefits, you can see how changes affect the organization. Consider these factors when determining whether your mental health solution meets the needs of your employees:

  • Employee engagement and satisfaction
  • Retention
  • Health claims spend
  • Productivity
  • Levels of employee burnout

Determine Cost-Effectiveness by Calculating Returns and Value

Investing in the mental health of your employees yields measurable returns on investment (ROI). According to a recent study, employers prioritizing mental health benefits can see an average ROI of 1.4x after just one year, with a potential ROI of 3x. However, solely focusing on ROI may not provide a complete picture of the benefits' impact on your organization.

To gain a comprehensive understanding of the value generated by mental health benefits, it's essential to consider the value on investment (VOI). VOI encompasses the full range of advantages your organization experiences from implementing an employee mental health solution, such as improvements in employee well-being, productivity, and retention. Evaluating VOI helps determine if the chosen benefits align with your company's objectives and contribute positively to its overall success.

To assess both ROI and VOI, consider the metrics below as a baseline to measure the impact of your benefits program:

  • Employee engagement rate or how often they interact with the solution
  • Impact of specific benefits on overall cost trend
  • The amount of time employees save from a new benefit investment
  • Options like self-guided meditations, group-based therapy, and self-paced digital offerings provide employees with immediate access to care.
  • The amount of time your HR team saves from a new benefit investment
  • User-friendly dashboards and tools save time for HR professionlas by providing access to critical metrics at a glance. 
  • Annual healthcare spend
  • Employee utilization rate

By closely examining these metrics, you'll gain valuable insights into the cost-effectiveness of your mental health benefits. This knowledge empowers you to make well-informed decisions that enhance your offerings and create a truly supportive environment for your employees.

Benchmarking Mental Health Benefits

After evaluating your benefits offering and identifying gaps in coverage, benchmarking allows you to compare the data against industry standards. This practice (known as competitive benchmarking) is performed by gathering public data about comparable mental health benefits offerings. 

Researching Mental Health Benefits Options and Providers

After assessing your current mental health benefits offering, compare whether other solutions are more likely to meet the needs of your employees or provide a better ROI. Benchmarking data will give you an accurate measurement to use for comparison. 

When researching mental health benefits options, compare these factors:

  • High engagement that can be measured
  • Proven clinical and preventive outcomes
  • Self-guided resources and coaching for wellness and stress management
  • Strong provider network and global access
  • Ease of setup and ongoing employer value
  • Cost-effective outcomes for better health
  • Made for a global and diverse workforce
  • Extended support with digital programs

Here are some questions to ask when considering different providers:

  • What tools do you provide to track employee engagement?
  • How do you monitor engagement by region for global employees?
  • What types of assessments do you use to track clinical outcomes?
  • How do you track progress for all members along the spectrum of clinical needs?
  • What is your average time-to-care, and how quickly can members schedule their first appointment?
  • Do your clients save money on behavioral and overall medical health spending?

Ongoing Evaluation and Assessment

You should expect your employees' mental health needs to change over time, which is why you should also plan on routine benchmarking strategies such as ongoing evaluations and assessments. 

This will help keep your finger on the pulse of employee wellness in your organization while also providing you the data needed to make the business case for long-term mental health support in the workplace. 

Benchmarking can also be used to evaluate long- and short-term goals as they pertain to employee benefit utilization or engagement. For example, when you roll out a new mental health benefits package, you may want to consider adoption rates within the first three months to determine if you need to improve communication and onboarding efforts. Meanwhile, to get a bigger picture of which parts of the program offer the most value, you can benchmark utilization once or twice annually.

Modern Health provides tools to make this process seamless throughout the year. For example, our automated anonymous surveys provide accurate, up-to-date metrics for employee utilization and engagement, allowing you to see at a glance where to improve. Our evidence-based tools allow you to calculate current ROI while setting goals for future returns. 

Understanding Modern Health's Offerings

Modern Health's benefits packages are designed to meet the diverse needs of your global teams by offering unique tools to support individuals regardless of their clinical needs. By focusing on specific, accessible care at every step, our members are more likely to continue engaging with their benefits, whether it’s self-guided meditations, group-based therapy with Circles, or sessions with one of our culturally-centered coaches or therapists. 

If you’d like more resources for benefits benchmarking in mental health, we’re thrilled to share our first Benefits Benchmarking Toolkit, available below. Click the button to access the resource and share it with your team.

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Gabriella Chavarin

Gabriella Chavarin is Head of Content Marketing at Modern Health, a global mental health platform that helps keep employees healthy & resilient. Previously, Gabriella worked as a Marketing Manager for a national health payer organization, and she brings a wealth of healthcare and marketing experience to the Modern Health team.