Mental health has become a big area of concern for employers, and we’re hearing about it a lot in the employee benefits industry. A recent Mental Health Index released by Telus Health earlier this year reports that the mental health of Canadian workers has declined sharply. It is now at the lowest point it’s been in the last two years. In the last year alone, anxiety, isolation, and work productivity were ranked with the lowest mental health scores. The report indicates that 35% of working Canadians have a high mental health risk.
As an employer, you might be wondering how you can support employee mental health in the workplace. Let’s take a look at how benefits can help and what you can do to encourage an employee’s mental well-being.
1. Promote Your Employee Assistance Program To Support Employee Mental Health
An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provides support to an employee dealing with mental health issues or a personal challenge in their life. It includes free 24/7 counseling and consultation services. Some EAP’s include a mental health risk assessment available for employees and leaders. You can check your EAP to see if this type of assessment is included in your program.
Counseling is one of the better-known features of an EAP that supports employee mental health. Counseling gives employees access to a free resource as an alternative to seeing a psychologist, which can be costly – more on that below. However, there are several other services and issues that EAPs can help an employee with. These include legal guidance, financial planning, elder or childcare, access to a social worker, and career support. All services are completely confidential. This way, employees can feel confident that any personal issues they’re dealing with will remain private if they use the EAP.
2. Increase Annual Maximums for Certain Services
More and more employers are re-evaluating their annual coverage for psychologist / counselor services to further enhance their support for employee mental health. The reality is that your maximum is probably nowhere near enough for an employee to get the professional support they might need. The average cost to see a psychologist in Saskatchewan is upwards of $150 to $200. Yet, many employee benefits plans still only offer a maximum of $500 per year.
Most therapy and counseling sessions take place weekly (or sometimes every two weeks). As such, a maximum of $500 won’t go very far to properly support employee mental health. Let’s break down the numbers. Even if they see someone every other week, a $500 maximum would give them about a month and a half with a psychologist / counselor. Only a handful of sessions is probably not going to be as effective. In addition, it can take time to find the right psychologist / counselor. You might want to consider increasing the psychologist / counseling benefits maximum to somewhere between $1,500 to $2,000. This would ensure that more sessions can be covered so that you can better support employee mental health.
3. Communicate and Connect with Employees
Making sure that employees are aware of what’s available to them in their benefits plan is essential. Many may not know about the mental health programs included in their plan or what sort of coverage exists to support employee mental health. Take the time to communicate clearly and regularly about the benefits that your plan includes. As mentioned above, promoting the EAP is a great way to start – especially because that service is free to employees.
Keep in mind that communication tends to be more challenging if you have a remote or hybrid workplace. This is where isolation and loneliness can become a concern. Benefits Canada reports that 68% of plan sponsors anticipate seeing a rise in mental health claims related to stress and isolation because more employees work from home. A lack of social contact can have a negative impact on employee mental health.
To reduce feelings of isolation, think of ways that you can check in and connect with your remote employees. For example, encourage remote employees to come into the office once a week. And, make that time pleasant and fun. You can organize team building activities to bring employees together. And, get your people outside to connect with each other and nature. Don’t forget that simply reaching out by email, phone, or video chat to ask how someone is doing can go a long way to support employee mental health.
Many benefits are designed to address mental health issues. As an employer it’s your job to communicate and connect with your people so they get the support they need. If you’d like to know more about EAPs or look at what coverage is included in your employee benefits plan to support employee mental health and wellness, get in touch with us today.