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Mental Health & Productivity: How Employee Benefit Programs can Help

Employers 10.21.2021

Employee benefit programs are evolving to cover employees’ physical, mental and financial health. In this article, we go deeper to see how these programs have an impact on employees’ productivity at the workplace.

Historically, “employee wellness programs” have focused on benefits related to physical health. Forward-thinking employers have evolved the definition to reflect a more comprehensive approach to employee well-being that combines an employee’s physical, mental, emotional and financial health—all issues that affect their productivity and ability to perform at their best.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, a WorkPlace Wellness 2019 survey found more than 70% of employers were focused on overall employee well-being.1

“Employee benefits programs that address employee mental health can help ease the emotional burden on employees, improve productivity, reduce use of sick time and decrease health insurance costs.”

Employers are looking closely at benefits to support employees’ mental health needs.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take a toll on health, mental health benefits have become more important than ever. Issues affecting employees’ mental health include:

  • Fear for their health and family’s health
  • Taking care of sick loved ones
  • Financial uncertainty
  • Loss of child care
  • Spikes in anxiety or depression
  • Increased stress working from home

Mental health coverage has traditionally been provided through health plans and Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). After reviewing the benefit practices of hundreds of our clients across Corporate America, it is clear many employers are taking a closer look at the implementation of their benefits and evaluating the effectiveness of their programs in the COVID-19 environment. Some have found their platforms for mental and emotional well-being assistance are being under-utilized. This has led companies to search for additional resources to support employee mental health needs, including:

  • Telehealth services. We’ve seen a vast majority of companies and health insurance carriers begin offering these services.
  • Mental health and well-being apps. More than 85% of our corporate partners have provided mental health assistance to employees through their EAPs, as well as mental health and well-being benefit apps.2
  • Expanded paid leave. Most of our corporate partners made leave policy changes to address immediate needs. Many companies across Corporate America have conveyed they’re considering permanently expanding leave policies. The most common strategy among our corporate partners has been adding two weeks leave for COVID-related needs. A small number of companies are also considering unlimited leave time

Employee benefits programs that address employee mental health can help ease the emotional burden on employees, improve productivity, reduce use of sick time and decrease health insurance costs.

The COVID-19 crisis has led to stress on personal finances and affected employee productivity.

Nearly 9 in 10 Americans have said the COVID-19 pandemic had been causing stress on their personal finances and impacting productivity.3 A survey conducted prior to the pandemic indicated that 72% of employers cited stress as the number one cause of employee productivity issues.4

Stress can be caused by a number of personal factors. Both financial security and mental health issues have been identified by employees as key issues impacting their focus at work—and the cost is staggering. A survey found that a financially unhealthy workforce has cost employers $300 billion annually in lost productivity.5

Employers respond with cost-effective solutions to improve employees’ financial well-being.

Before the COVID-19 crisis even began, there were already growing concerns that employees were not saving enough for retirement, and the average employee couldn’t pay for an unexpected expense. The pandemic has further strained the financial wellness of America’s workforce. As a result, the focus on financial wellness benefits has rapidly increased.

According to The Employee Benefits Research Institute’s 2020 Financial Wellness Survey, 90% of employers have taken some action to address the financial well-being of their employees.6 Given that every employee’s financial stressors are different, employers must think creatively as they search for cost-effective solutions to meet the diverse needs of their workforce.

From the more than one million employees across Corporate America who have access to financial wellness support from Goldman Sachs Ayco Personal Financial Management, the most common concerns we hear include:

Consider these financial wellness tools to ease your employees’ stress levels

Financial wellness resources—like digital platforms, group education seminars and one-on-one counseling programs—can help employers meet the increased need for financial support facing today’s employees and their families. At Ayco, we offer in-person and online group education to engage employees in all areas of financial planning, including entering the workforce, starting a family, caring for aging parents and retirement readiness.

By partnering with your human resources and benefits teams, we help drive utilization of organizational programs, and use metrics and feedback to provide a deeper understanding of employee populations.

Learn how we can help you create a more productive, financially well and engaged workforce at all levels, .

1 International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans 2019 WorkPlace Wellness Survey

2 Data based on 275 companies as of January 2021

3 Study by the National Endowment for Financial Education

4 International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans 2019 WorkPlace Wellness Survey

5 Defined Contribution Institutional Investment Association (DCIIA), A Financial Wellness primer: Why Financial Wellness? July 2017