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June 3, 2024

Mind the Mental Health Gap

Modern Health surveys executives, HR leaders, and employees about the current state and future of mental health benefits at work

SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 14, 2021 -- Modern Health, a leading workplace mental health platform, today published a wide-ranging study of business leaders, HR leaders, managers and employees to take a closer look at the future of the workplace. The research, commissioned by Modern Health and conducted by Forrester Consulting, set out to determine whether COVID-19 was a forcing function, a lasting awakening, or a short-term deviation in how companies perceive and plan for mental health benefits. The results reveal a disconnect between leadership perception and employee experiences when it comes to the quality, quantity, and perceived motivations behind the mental health benefits offered at work.

The survey of 1,700+ employees, including managers, non-manager employees, C-level executives, and HR leaders, found that the vast majority of C-suite executives (88%) and HR leaders (86%) think they're doing a good job when it comes to mental health. At the same time, while 87% of workers (both managers and non-manager employees) want their employers to care about their mental health, only 66% actually feel supported. In fact, 28% of employees and managers feel that their employer failed to support their mental health during the pandemic.

"Even before the pandemic, society was fighting an epidemic of loneliness as mental health issues, depression rates, and suicide rates skyrocketed," said Modern Health founder and CEO, Alyson Watson. "The pandemic was a tipping point, exacerbated by other issues like ongoing racial injustice and the political environment. These challenges have created an opportunity for employers to pave the way to a future that allows employees to bring their whole selves to work and provide the support that empowers employees with the resilience needed to thrive. Mental health benefits are not only considered table stakes for companies (80% of employers state this), but also lead to a healthier, more productive workforce. The takeaway: mental health is something every employer should be thinking about daily —to simultaneously get ahead in the war for talent while doing the right thing."

Mental health benefits improve the way we work
Employees, managers and leaders agree that providing mental health benefits can lead to improved productivity. When leaders were asked about the benefits of offering mental health support to their employees, 67% cited improvement in productivity. At the same time, when asked what benefits their employers would get out of offering mental health support and services, 62% of managers and employees said they would be more productive.

While employees understand that productivity is a huge driving force behind why their employers care about their mental health, more than two-thirds (68%) believe their employer also wants to create a happier, healthier workforce. For executives and HR leaders, more than half (56%) say improved company culture is a desired benefit and 51% say they hope it improves employees' sense of belonging and inclusion.

Are employees really asking too much?
While COVID-19 has led to an increased emphasis on and destigmatization of mental health worldwide, the research suggests there are still companies that have not caught up. Half of leaders surveyed said employee benefits for mental health were not available in the past and therefore should not be a priority today. And a staggering 80% of C-suite leaders and nearly three-quarters (73%) of HR leaders say employees today expect too much mental health support from their employers.

When managers were asked about the motivations behind their employers' mental health support, many said they believe it's optics-driven. Close to half (48%) of managers surveyed said the leadership team implemented mental health benefits to tick a box rather than change the organization's culture, yet 56% of C-suite and HR leaders said that they hoped to improve company culture by implementing mental health benefits. That said, managers still feel like they've been tasked with the burden of supporting their teams' mental health. Seventy one percent of managers said in the past year, they've been asked to do more than ever to support their employees, but nearly half (49%) felt ill-equipped to do so. And 72% say that without the right mental health support for employees, their job as a manager is more difficult.

Mental health offerings and diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging
COVID-19 isn't the only event that has had a profound impact on our mental state over the past 18 months. Public incidents of systemic racial violence also necessitated that employers step up their support. The research shows that there is still significant room for improvement. Less than half (43%) of employees said their company showed empathy in response to these events, whether by offering a statement of support for victims or a condemnation of racism, and almost 20% of employees say their employers did nothing in response to these events.

Additionally, many employees still don't feel comfortable sharing their concerns at work. Most managers (63%) and more than half (57%) of employees felt the major events of the last 12-15 months affected them, but also felt they had to leave it out of their work life. This is despite the fact that more than a quarter of managers (38%) and employees (31%) said these events were so distracting, they couldn't do their job.

Will mental health benefits stay or go? And will that mean employees stay or go?
While most leaders (89%) acknowledge the importance of providing employees with mental health support before it impacts them negatively, when asked if they plan to revert back to the mental health strategy used pre-pandemic, 60% said yes.

At the same time, the post-pandemic workplace has shifted power to the employee; 64% of manager and non-manager employees rank a flexible and supportive culture over a higher salary and are prepared to change jobs to find it. In the midst of the so-called 'great resignation' where empowered employees are demanding more from their employers, mental health support will become a competitive differentiator for companies looking to attract and retain talent.

"The employee demand for mental health support is not going away, and while there may be some additional cost to implementing robust mental health care, there is benefit not only in doing the right thing for their employees, but also in boosting productivity, innovation, talent acquisition and increasing retention," said Myra Altman, Ph.D., Vice President of Clinical Care at Modern Health. "Mental health affects every facet of the organization, from productivity and profitability to diversity and belonging. And something so integral to the success of the company, its employees and managers, HR leaders, and executives, should be at the absolute core of a leader's priorities."

To conduct this study, Modern Health commissioned Forrester Consulting to conduct an online survey of 1,215 employees (702 non-manager employees and 513 managers) and 500 leaders (250 C-level executives and 250 human resources decision-makers) in the U.S. about their impressions of mental health benefits in the workplace. The research was fielded in late July 2021. The employee sample included adults aged 18 to 60+ in a mixed distribution of departments and industries at companies ranging in size from 500 employees to more than 20,000. All were working full-time and received some combination of employer-provided benefits. Sixty-seven percent of respondents were white and 33% were black, indigenous, or people of color (BIPOC). The executive/HR leader sample included adults in a mixed distribution of leadership roles and industries at companies ranging in size from 250 employees to more than 20,000. Among C-level executives, 93% held one of four titles: CEO, COO, president, or CFO, and all carried some decision-making authority over mental health benefits at their organization. All HR leaders had a seniority of director level or above.

About Modern Health
Modern Health is the comprehensive mental health and wellness platform that combines the WHO well-being assessment, self-service wellness kits, a global network of certified coaches and licensed therapists, all available in a single app. Modern Health empowers employers to lead the charge in acknowledging that mental health is just as important as physical health, destigmatizing the conversation, and increasing accessibility of mental health services for all.

Founded in 2017, Modern Health incorporates evidence-based psychology principles and seamless technology to serve the needs of companies globally. Headquartered in San Francisco, Modern Health has raised more than $172 million from Founders Fund, Battery Ventures, Felicis Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, Afore Capital, MGV, Frederic Kerrest (co-founder of Okta), and 01 Advisors.