Keys to Creating a Mentally Healthy Workplace
Published July 2, 2021
8 minute read
COVID-19 turned everyone’s attention towards physical health. It also shed new light on mental and emotional health that had been lacking, especially in policies and practices around a mentally healthy workplace.
Archetype Solutions Group co-hosted a roundtable discussion with Informed Consulting, insurance carriers, and mental health providers. Together, we explored how employers and providers can continue and expand mental health support to create a mentally healthy workplace. Several themes recurred around the ways to capitalize on tactics, creating better outcomes for individuals while increasing workplace productivity.
We have compiled these ideas into a list that carriers, employers, employees, and vendors should focus on when creating a mentally healthy workplace.
BEING MORE PROACTIVE WITH PREVENTION
One leader at an insurance company shared that most EAPs only have 3-5% utilization maximums. This is ineffective when it comes to driving awareness and prevention prior to claims.
By the time that someone has made a disability claim, they are already in a state of ill health. Even then, it still takes a long time to get them in front of the best clinician to help manage their mental health.
Long-term integration opportunities offer a potential means of preemptive support. For example, when someone goes out on maternity leave, they can receive information and resources about post-partum depression before it becomes an issue.
MOVING AWAY FROM BROADER-BASED PPM SOLUTIONS TO THOSE THAT ARE PRICED THROUGH UTILIZATION
Since traditional EAPs have not proven effective at engaging employees and providing them services they comfortably and consistently use, we need a different strategy. Insurance companies turn their attention towards pricing services based on usage instead of number of members covered to better reflect the gap between the two.
Mental healthcare is cost-effective, but it’s hard to get employees to use it. Representatives and managers need to become better at articulating how resources can be applied. Additionally, one vendor shared that their clients ask for webinars that highlight the uses of services so members can learn how to use them before they need them.
GATHERING AND REFLECTING ON FEEDBACK AND DATA TO UNDERSTAND WHAT TOOLS REALLY HELP
When it comes to collecting data, providers should always do what’s best for their patients and practice. For our conversation, providers talked about using net promoter scores. Net promoter scores are one of the more common means of evaluating how a solution impacted the user. However, an insurance leader shared that getting reliable results through scores takes too long. They have obtained a better understanding of program efficacy through clinical assessments. Publicly available tools like the PHQ-9 and GAD-7 are used to gauge mental health and indicate potential conditions. These can be taken quickly and easily by users to identify issues and measure progress.
IDENTIFYING AT-RISK POPULATIONS
Many of the participants emphasized that it is necessary to look at mental health as a continuum. This means it fluctuates over time and it is important to be observant of changes but not over-analyze them.
It is crucial to be able to tell the difference between employees’ low moods due to situational factors or due to a clinical disorder.
Contributors emphasized the need to avoid pathologizing all variations in mental health while remaining vigilant of serious changes. This is another area that the PHQ-9 and GAD-7 assessments come in handy. Users access them online and take the assessment in a few minutes without leaving their home. The results easily connect to an app and a health professional analyzes them and directs the user towards the proper resources or treatment.
MAKING SURE EMPLOYEES KNOW THEY CAN TALK TO SOMEONE
Loneliness is a predecessor to many mental health issues. By ensuring employees know where to turn to, we can combat mental health issues and prevent costs down the line.
Part of this is fostering a workplace community where people feel comfortable discussing what is happening in their lives.
Participants shared that they focus on training managers to talk to their employees about wellbeing and focus on how they can support them. When that is not the case, it is all the more important to provide resources that employees trust. One participant mentioned that frontline workers are more likely to use resources if employers continue to reiterate these tools. One vendor said that personal topics remain really difficult thing to share with their employer. In these situations, it is crucial that the individual has a third party that they can identify and get support from.
NAVIGATING RE-INTEGRATION WITH THESE KEYS IN MIND
The COVID-19 pandemic had employees facing similar situations transitioning to full remote work. However, with people returning to the office, it is difficult to predict what employees are going through.
The pandemic made a lasting impact on the mental and behavioral health, as well as overall lives, of most workers. Employers need to recognize this when planning a return to the office by gathering individuals’ input and feedback.
With a lack of social determinants in health data, employees need access to services for monitoring quality of life. Changes to these are known to preclude worsening mental health, so it is important employees feel comfortable reaching out. This helps catch risk factors with pointing individuals towards appropriate resources before those factors significantly affect their life and work.
The overwhelming consensus from this discussion was clear. COVID-19 provided a valuable time for employers, vendors, and providers to rethink how they support individuals and transition from treating mental health conditions to preventing them. Ultimately, they look to create a mentally healthy workplace that is sustainable. Companies that try to revert to the same way of operating as pre-pandemic miss out on opportunities to better care for their employees.