Support Your Employees’ Mental Health, Support Your Business

There’s more to healthcare than just physical health. Annual check-ups and care for injuries or illnesses are important, but so is managing stress, anxiety, and other mental health concerns. You can offer your employees a group healthcare plan that emphasizes both of these aspects of their well-being. Doing this will not only have a positive impact on your employees’ lives, but will also help keep your business running smoothly.

Stress & Anxiety in the Workplace

african american woman sitting with her elbows on her knees and her hands together on her forehead.
More than 70% of workers say that stress and anxiety interferes with their lives.

It won’t come as a surprise to any employer that working can sometimes equal stress, and even anxiety. But there are some concrete numbers that may surprise you. Around 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. suffer from some form of mental illness in a given year, close to 60% say they are suffering from “burnout,” and more than 70% of workers say that stress and anxiety interferes with their lives. 

According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA) 2006 Stress & Anxiety Disorders Survey, employees said that stress and anxiety most often impacts their:

  • workplace performance (56%)
  • relationship with coworkers and peers (51%)
  • quality of work (50%) 
  • relationships with superiors (43%)

These numbers should sound an alarm for you. Stress at work affects job performance, negatively impacts the culture of your workplace, and can also spill over into your employees’ outside life. They may have troubling sleeping, difficulties with their relationships, and may even end up suffering from depression.

A Culture of Silence?

There is hope. Almost 90% of employees who get help for mental health issues report feeling better about their job, more productive at work, and less likely to take time off, according to a study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. But before that relief can come, they need to be able to ask for help. Is your workplace a safe environment for expressing anxiety and talking about stress? It might not be. 

Many employees are not comfortable speaking to their employer about their stress or other mental health concerns. Again according to the ADAA survey, only 40% of employees whose stress was getting in the way of their job had talked to their employers about it. Of those who did speak to their employer, only 4 in 10 reported being offered some sort of help. 

It is up to you as an employer to make sure that your employees know they can ask for help if they need it. They also need to know that they will be listened to and offered some sort of help. One way you can do this is by normalizing mental health care: make clear that you take your employees’ mental health seriously, and make your mental healthcare plan as comprehensive and accessible as your physical healthcare plan. 

Make Mental Health a Priority

caucasian man sitting in front of a laptop with mental health related words on the screen.
You can find a plan that offers good mental health services for your employees.

Employees need to feel safe and comfortable asking for help at work, but they also need practical ways to access that help. Fortunately, it’s much easier nowadays to prioritize mental health care. To show your employees that their mental health is a priority, you can

  • Offer them an ACA-approved healthcare plan. Simple, right? You were going to offer them this benefit anyway, and mental health coverage is actually one of the 10 essential benefits that must be covered under all of these plans. Make it clear to your employees that these benefits are included, and give them all relevant info on how to access the included services.
  • Look for mental-health specific add-ons. One of the fastest growing and most popular “extras” you can add to your employee health plan is an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). EAPs offer, among other things, a number of helpful mental health services at no cost to employees, like in-person or telephone counseling. Adding these programs may cost you a little bit extra, but they are worth it: you are showing your employees that you care about their mental health – and you are keeping your workforce healthy and productive. You are also protecting them against future stress-related physical illnesses that could end up costing more in the long run. 
  • Try out well-being apps. While these digital benefits don’t replace therapy, they are easy to use and a great supplement to other mental health care benefits, especially for younger employees.
  • Add telehealth options to your plan. While apps can be fun, quick, and easy, some people prefer to speak to someone directly. Offering telehealth options removes some of the barriers of seeking in-person counseling or therapy. 
  • Make your workspace a mental health-friendly place. If you have a workplace wellness program, don’t just focus on weight-loss goals or quitting smoking, focus on mental well-being, as well. Even if you don’t have one of these programs, you can still do small things to reduce stress in your workplace like offering yoga classes, having a meditation room, or even just encouraging break times that allow employees to get outside and walk together. These small steps obviously will not treat mental illness, but they will help to relieve stress and will also show that you care about your employees’ mental health.

Mental illness, stress, anxiety – all of these things are steadily increasing in our complicated world. Unfortunately, for most people, work is just another part of the problem. However, you can be the kind of employer who takes these issues seriously, listens to your employees, and offers them the help that they need. Make mental health a priority in your workplace, and you will find yourself with a happier, healthier, and more productive workforce. If you need help finding the right healthcare plan with the right mental health coverage, come to EZ.Insure. We’ve got the answers that you’re looking for, right now, for free. You can start by simply entering your zip code in the bar above to get a quote,  or call 888-998-2027 to speak to an agent.

Can Your Bottom Line Benefit From A Workplace Wellness Program?

Looking out for your employees’ health can mean looking out for your bottom line. You’ve probably heard how huge companies like Google and Microsoft offer unbelievable employee perks, including wellness programs with everything from on-site gyms, to chiropractors, and massages. You may not be able to provide your employees with “nap rooms” and in-house chefs, but you can still offer a smaller-scale version of a workplace wellness program. These programs may help you reduce healthcare costs and create a happier, more productive workplace, as long as you follow the rules laid out by the Affordable Care Act.

cigarettes on a table with a redcircle with line through it
Workplace wellness programs help employees get healthier and offer programs to quit smoking.

What Is a Workplace Wellness Program?

A workplace wellness program encourages employees to live healthier, fitter lives. Some insurance companies offer them, and some are completely designed by employers. It’s no secret that our country is dealing with multiple health issues like diabetes and obesity epidemics. Offering incentives for employees to look after themselves can help to keep rising healthcare costs down. These programs combine things like:

Employers can reimburse employees for gym memberships or even offer rewards like cash or reductions in their health insurance premiums.

Types of Workplace Wellness Programs

There are lots of different ways you can implement a wellness program, but generally there are two types. These are:

  • Participatory wellness programs – these programs are the ones that generally include seminars and health screenings offered at work, or reimbursements for gym memberships. They might not offer a reward for participation, or, if they do, employees will not have to meet any goals or conditions to get the rewards. 
  • Health-contingent wellness programs – employees who participate in these need to meet specific goals to get their reward. They can either be activity-based or outcome-based. For example, employees could commit to walking a certain amount per week (activity-based), or employees could reach a goal of quitting smoking or reducing their BMI (outcome-based).

The second type of program is a little more controversial since they could exclude some employees who have physical limitations that would make it hard to participate. So are there rules for these programs? Yes. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) lays out guidelines for how they can be used.

Wellness Programs and the ACA

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The ACA is on board with the use of workplace wellness programs: it actually created incentives for employers to use them. If an employer decides to offer a health-contingent program, employers can offer a reward that is equal to up to 30% of the total cost of medical coverage (including both employee and employer contributions). That amount goes up to 50% for programs that help employees quit smoking. 

This 30% limit is one of the rules put in place by the ACA. There are other regulations, as well. For example, employers need to give an opportunity to get a reward at least once a year, and the full reward needs to be offered to everyone fairly. 

This brings us to one of the main rules. In order to be fair and not discriminatory, “reasonable alternatives” have to be offered to employees who cannot participate in the same way as others because of a medical condition. Employees in an activity-based program need to be offered an alternative activity if, say, they are pregnant, ill, or have recently had surgery. And, if an employee in an outcome-based program doesn’t meet their goal, they need to be offered a way to still get their reward, perhaps by working with a health coach.

Why Have a Workplace Wellness Program?

money floating in the air.
Insurers will offer discounts on premiums if you offer employees a wellness program.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), almost half of all companies in the U.S. offer some type of health promotion or wellness program. There must be a reason why so many employers, large and small, are giving employees access to these programs. And there are studies that show the benefits go beyond employee satisfaction. Wellness programs can make sense financially for employers, even those running small businesses. Some of the reasons to consider one include:

  • Some insurance companies offer discounts on premiums for employers and employees that participate in wellness programs
  • Some studies claim that these programs can actually change employee behavior surrounding their health. While it’s hard to fundamentally change people, offering them education, motivation and social support (as well as concrete things like gym memberships) might help them to live healthier lives. They might quit smoking, lose weight or lower their cholesterol, all of which would lower their risks of serious health problems. And being healthier obviously means lower healthcare costs. In fact, the journal Health Affairs found that medical costs fell by $3.27 for every dollar spent on wellness programs.
  • Healthier employees not only have fewer costly health problems, but they may also be more productive. A study by the journal Popular Health Management found that smokers, people with unhealthy diets, people who don’t exercise, and those with chronic pain are actually less “present” at work, which could be costing employers money.
  • Other studies show that healthier employees miss fewer days of work. The study by Health Affairs found that absenteeism costs fell by $2.73 for each wellness dollar spent. 
  • A workplace wellness program could help you to attract more employees, and might help you keep the ones you have. Offering extras like gym memberships or lower insurance premiums can differentiate you from other employers. 

Workplace wellness programs can boost your employees’ health, make your business more productive, and help reduce your healthcare costs. Provisions in the ACA allow you to give rewards to your employees for looking out for their health, but you need to be careful about how you offer those incentives.