Why the Workplace Needs to Address Mental Health

Posted on: September 10th, 2018 by New Benefits Blog

Mental health has increasingly made headlines, and for good reason. One in five Americans face mental health issues like anxiety and depression at any given time, and the majority don’t seek the appropriate treatment. Often this is because they don’t have the right resources, they can’t afford it, or they’re embarrassed to ask for help.

Regardless of why, delaying treatment can set off a chain reaction of additional health issues. These issues aren’t left at home – they impact every aspect of a person’s life, including their work.

When the Mind Suffers, So Does the Work

Without some form of treatment, employees with poor mental health are less engaged and productive at work. Showing up to work doesn’t improve productivity any more than taking a day off; both absenteeism and presenteeism levels are higher when employees neglect to seek treatment for mental illness. Between the lost productivity and resulting physical health issues, employers lose at least $193 billion annually to employees’ untreated mental disorders.

As much as the workplace hurts from poor mental health, most businesses aren’t actively addressing it. But if an employer invests in resources to address their employees’ whole well-being – including mental health – they experience a unique return on their investment: a return on health (ROH). This ROH is reflected in happier, healthier employees who are more productive at work, and more loyal to their companies. In the long run, ROH can also result in financial returns with fewer claims, more work accomplished, and less turnover.

Addressing Mental Health at Work

ROH can only be achieved by directly addressing mental health issues. Rather than stigmatizing the problem as hush-hush, employers should start the conversation and show employees they care. Since actions speak louder than words, the most effective way to do this is by offering and promoting mental health resources.

While Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) may be the most commonly offered resources, they often include a limited number of sessions and tend to be better suited for short-term issues such as dealing with a recent loss. To give employees an accessible, long-term solution, employers can offer telemedicine behavioral health.

The number of options available through telemedicine continues to grow, as does the willingness for people to utilize it. Telemedicine behavioral health counseling allows employees to get the treatment they need over the phone or video chat, from the comfort of home. With lack of access and high-cost barriers removed, people with mental health issues are more likely to schedule therapy sessions – and they can receive treatment for as long or little as needed.

MeMD, one of the leading providers in telehealth, understood the growing need to address mental health more effectively and added behavioral health to their roster of services. “Providing behavioral health benefits via teletherapy allows employers to prioritize employees’ mental health in a cost-effective way, while also addressing access issues and improving confidentiality for employees who seek care,” said Kevin Wallquist, EVP of National Accounts and Health Plans for MeMD.

As employees feel more comfortable seeking treatment, they’ll experience positive change in other areas of their life. The workplace will benefit too. The more an employer understands the necessity behind addressing well-being holistically, and the more they invest in their employees’ health, the greater return (on health) they’ll see.