The U.S. Government Accountability Office1 found that people have greater difficulty finding in-network providers for mental healthcare if they’re new patients. Behavioral health appointments are also five times more likely to be out-of-network, meaning they’ll be more expensive2.
Your employees’ mental health and happiness are major factors in the growth and success of your company. So how can business owners support mental wellness when insurance doesn’t cover these essential services?
In this article, we’ll go over five ways you can prioritize your employees’ mental health to create a more positive company culture.
1. Supplement your group health plan with a GCHRA or wellness stipend
If your group policy doesn’t cover mental health services, you don’t necessarily need to look for a new plan. With a group coverage health reimbursement arrangement (GCHRA), also called an integrated HRA, you can supplement your current plan with a monthly allowance to cover qualified healthcare costs not fully paid for by the plan.
A GCHRA allows employers to reimburse employees for the out-of-pocket health expenses they incur. Only employees enrolled in your group plan can use the benefit, and–unlike a health savings account (HSA)—the benefit does not need to be pre-funded. Any unused funds an employee has left when they leave the organization or reach the end of the plan year stays with you.
If you don’t offer a group plan, you can provide an alternative health benefit like the qualified small employer HRA (QSEHRA) or individual coverage HRA (ICHRA). These benefits allow you to reimburse your employees for their individual health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket medical expenses, like mental health services.
Another great perk to add to your benefits package is a wellness stipend. With a wellness stipend, employees can pay for various activities and programs that promote a healthy lifestyle, like wellness apps, gym memberships, fitness trackers, mental health counseling, or exercise classes. Wellness stipends differ from health stipends, which are mainly for insurance premiums and medical expenses.
Having an employee wellness program at your workplace is a great start toward showing your commitment to your team’s mental health. But pairing that program with a wellness stipend enables your employees to invest in the activities and items that matter most to their overall well-being, making them a flexible and inclusive benefit to offer.
2. Talk frequently and openly about employee mental health
It’s no secret that there’s a stigma around mental health, but you can help combat it in your organization by communicating early and often about workplace mental health.
If you offer benefits that cover employee mental health services, don’t let open enrollment be the only time you talk about it. Remind your employees year-round about the mental health benefits that are available to them.
In addition, make sure your employees each have frequent opportunities to talk to their managers one-on-one. Employee burnout is a worsening problem in today’s workforce, especially among remote employees who have little distinction between work and home.
Frequent one-on-ones give managers a chance to check in on their employees’ stress levels and make adjustments to their workload before things get worse.
3. Make time for fun at work
Most of an employee’s day-to-day work is about productivity. But human beings are naturally social. When employees connect outside of completing work tasks, they strengthen their personal relationships and can experience a greater sense of belonging within your organization.
Providing time for social interaction can positively impact employees’ overall mental health as well. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that when individuals are socially connected, they’re more likely to have stronger mental health outcomes3.
Even if it’s just small breaks throughout the day to do something fun, it’s important to give employees a chance to decompress at work to promote their mental health and engage with their coworkers. Whether it’s with office happy hours, monthly book clubs, or virtual games, there are dozens of ways you can incorporate a little fun into your employees’ workday.
Dedicating time to a fun company culture helps keep your current employees happy and is also a valuable recruiting tool. 56% of respondents to a Glassdoor survey4 said that having a workplace culture is more important than salary when it comes to job satisfaction. So prioritizing a happy and healthy work environment is vital to your company’s long-term success.
4. Ensure your employees have adequate vacation time
If you’re noticing high employee burnout or turnover, it may be time to revisit your paid time off (PTO) policy. PTO allows employees to take time off when they need it most, whether for a vacation or a mental health day. It promotes a healthy work-life balance, boosts employee morale, and helps improve job performance.
Whether your company has a fixed, accrual, rollover, or unlimited PTO policy, offering PTO is a significant aspect of having a positive company culture. Some employees may feel judged for taking time off. That’s why you and your senior leadership team should encourage them to use PTO to participate in activities they enjoy so they can feel refreshed and relaxed.
Vacationing isn’t just for your employees’ mental health. It’s also a key factor in their productivity and effectiveness. Neuroscientists have found that chronic exposure to stress harms the brain by triggering stress, anxiety, or depression. Taking a vacation or offering flexible work hours helps the mind rest and heal so your staff can return to work energized and ready to succeed.
5. Offer mental health training and resources
Another way to tackle workplace mental health issues is to offer mental health training to help employees learn valuable coping mechanisms. Reach out in your community to find experts in your area to host seminars on topics like anxiety, stress management, mindfulness, imposter syndrome, or whatever topics your employees would benefit from the most.
Sending an anonymous survey is an excellent way to find out what topics interest your employees and help them deal with their mental health challenges. For example, if you have a lot of new mothers, your office may benefit from a discussion on postpartum depression.
Not only does this give your employees expert guidance, but it also helps them see they aren’t alone in the challenges they’re dealing with. Research data5 shows that an estimated one in five U.S. adults live with a mental health condition. By offering greater resources, your employees can make connections with others who struggle in the same ways they do.
In addition to formal training, you can create peer support groups, host virtual webinars, or add an employee assistance program (EAP) to your benefits package. EAPs are mental health resources that help employees resolve personal issues that may negatively impact their lives, like relationship troubles, financial stress, health and wellness struggles, and more.
The cost of EAPs are generally fully covered by employers and offer access to mental health professionals via phone, online, or in person, so they can feel safe knowing their conversations will remain confidential.
Prioritizing mental health helps employees bring their best selves to work daily. It also creates a more motivated, innovative, and productive workforce. That’s why having procedures to support employees' mental health is crucial for your staff and business goals.
Supplementing your employee benefits package and focusing on a healthy culture will help you recruit and retain talented workers. If you’re looking for new ways to offer affordable benefits to your employees, PeopleKeep can help! Schedule a call with our personalized benefits advisors to learn more about customizable perks for your company.
This article was originally published on February 11, 2022. It was last updated on August 7, 2023.