Wellness at Work: Adjusting Your Benefits Program for a Changed America
On the heels of one of the hardest years the world has seen in close to a century, many Americans are left struggling. As a result, there’s a spotlight on overall wellbeing including financial, physical, and mental health.
Mental or behavioral health is getting the attention it deserves. And in a lot of places, it’s finally a conversation people are having around the dinner table. How different that looks compared to family dinners a decade ago.
As families are talking about and addressing mental health, so too must businesses. According to BenefitsPro, nearly half (46%) of full-time workers are dealing with mental health issues, up 17% from a year ago.1
How do you support your people when your budget is already tight?
Cultivating a positive work environment, providing mental health resources, and offering mental health benefits can show support for employees. But with a large cut to budgets recently, you may feel a financial challenge.
So how do you do it? What changes can you make to your benefits program to support the mental wellbeing of your people without a large financial hit?
6 Small Adjustments with Big Payoffs
- Educate your employees: You’ve probably invested a large chunk of your budget in a robust benefits package. Do your employees know what’s available to them? Just like the Rule of 7 for buying, employees need consistent and recurring education to fully understand what you’ve made available. A smart step is to implement ongoing benefits education. Because everyone learns and retains differently, being creative with the messaging could increase awareness. And with the right education, employees are empowered to make purchases based on their family’s actual needs.
- Add an Employee Assistance Program: Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are an affordable, effective way to support your employees. These programs generally offer free services to employees to help provide counseling, legal assistance, caregiving advice, and more. If you already offer an EAP, be sure to promote it regularly, as only 5% of employees use them annually.2
As a company listed on the Great Place to Work3 list for over a decade, American Fidelity keeps employee wellbeing at the forefront. But because of the pandemic, Jona Severance, Senior Health and Welfare Benefits Analyst, found this to be helpful when encouraging use of the company’s EAP.
“Giving our colleagues the wide range of tools and resources to handle their specific needs was vital to us during this time. We provided lunch and learn webinars monthly on different topics such as Communication Skills for Families and Managing Worry and Anxiety. Continued education and communication allowed us to see a big increase in overall utilization of our EAP in 2021.”
- Confirm your health insurance covers the whole person: When selecting or renegotiating your medical plans, evaluate the options your employees have for treatment, including medications for mental illnesses and addiction treatment. While the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the Mental Health Parity Act generally require plans to offer a certain level of mental health coverage, it may not be enough to encourage employees to seek the treatment they need.
- Include a telemedicine resource: Telemedicine benefits can provide an anonymous, convenient way for someone to seek mental health treatment. Usually, the cost-per-visit is lower than an in-person appointment and allows your employees to visit with a provider on their schedule.
- Promote Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) programs: PSLF is a federal program that may save your staff thousands of dollars, and it won’t cost you any money. PSLF forgives federal student loans for borrowers who are employed full-time (30+ hours per week) in an eligible public service organization. Many companies partner with public service organizations to offer employee consultation and filing assistance. In a time of financial stress, PSFL could be a great resource to help remove a burden that’s negatively affecting the total wellness of your employees. Read more about PSLF programs
- Consider financial wellness programs at work: With already stretched family budgets, employees may not have the resources to seek outside financial advice. Consider offering in-person financial wellness courses to give your people access to experts, without the price tag. An investment in employees’ total wellbeing is an easy way to show appreciation and could lead to positive productivity for your organization.
“Our goal is to have colleagues fully prepared for their financial future. The educational resources offered include classes such as How to Build a Budget and What is a Savings Plan along with many others. We also focus on individual’s retirement and provide three levels of education so they know how to get started, understand their investments for growth opportunities, and how to prepare for retirement. We want our colleagues to be financially able to retire whenever that time comes for them”, said Jona Severance, Senior Health and Welfare Benefits Analyst.
Total Wellness May be the Biggest Factor in Job Satisfaction
Employees are facing historic levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. And an increasingly blurred line between work and home means employees are exceeding the 40-hour standard. It’s crucial that employers are providing the right support to promote overall wellbeing.
This blog is up to date as of April 2021 and has not been updated for changes in the law, administration or current events.