Addressing and prioritizing employee mental health
What makes a good mental health program?
A good mental wellness program is easily accessible, used by employees, and acknowledges the mental health needs of the workforce. These programs should be backed by a work environment where employees feel safer and more comfortable working in an environment where stress is manageable, mental health is freely spoken about, and that encourages plan members to benefit from services available to support them.
Employers are responsible for creating a culture that supports physical and mental employee health. Mental health programs can help create psychologically healthy workplaces, which will make for [footnote 1]:
- A higher quality of employee engagement
- Better overall morale in the workplace
- Higher levels of employee satisfaction
- Higher retention rates and more attractive recruitment positioning
- A more productive organization
Look for these key features in a mental health program that will truly make a difference for your employees and have a positive effect on your organization:
- Proactive prevention: Look for a program that fights mental health stigma in the workplace through proactive outreach initiatives using tools like mental health questionnaires and stress screenings, material on wellness tips and tricks, webinars on well-being, or even a library of self-led educational material.
- Easy, convenient access to therapy: Employees are more likely to take advantage of therapy if it’s easy to access and fits into their schedule. Virtual therapy via video conferencing allows people to meet with a therapist from home, saving them the time and hassle of commuting to an in-person appointment. Enabling plan participants to get care according to their preference (self-led versus practitioner-led, or a bit of both) allows organizations to reach a broader employee base and improve utilization.
- Multidisciplinary, holistic treatment: The program will ideally offer access to a multidisciplinary healthcare team. Members will be matched to the right professional among a roster of mental health specialists, psychologists, psychotherapists, doctors, and nurse practitioners, to help treat the unique needs of as many employees as possible, and ensure adherence to treatment and timely resolution of issues. Treatment should also depend on where users are in their mental health journey, contributing to higher remission rates over time.
- Focused on positive clinical outcomes: Mental health solutions should leverage a treatment approach that is effective and quick to resolve issues within the scope and help to prevent relapse, such as cognitive behavioural therapy. Additionally, maintaining a therapeutic relationship with a patient leads to better outcomes more quickly, so a solution should include options such as unlimited sessions until remission or the option to continue with the same professional if sessions are limited.
- Essential continuity of care: Follow-up sessions are also a vital part of ensuring positive outcomes. Employees should have follow-ups with the same care professional, track their mental health score every two weeks using GAD-7 or PHQ-9 assessments, and then jointly discuss their experience to assess whether they’re building resilience and developing the coping mechanisms necessary for a full recovery.
Build a culture of health and wellness
Promote plan member participation
Managers must be active promoters of mental health programs and employee well-being to create a workplace culture that values wellness. The current reality is that there is an unfortunate lack of employee awareness with regard to what benefits they have access to.
Normalize mental health and wellness
To fight mental health stigma, organizations must become the leading advocates for employee wellness, from ensuring employees are taking valuable breaks or using vacation time to encouraging honest feedback and monitoring overall well-being using feedback software. This creates a culture where mental health is valued and openly discussed, and employees are encouraged to seek appropriate help for mental health issues.
Promote healthy living
Another quick way to start prioritizing mental health is by promoting healthy living. Healthy activities can help employees feel good and stay on top of their game.
There are plenty of ways to help employees take breaks from work that will help them relax, re-energize, or refocus. Work wellness is a challenge taken on by an increasing number of important players. Major Canadian companies like Bell have created massively successful awareness campaigns, like Bell Let’s Talk Day, which aim to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness by encouraging people to talk openly about their challenges. What makes these programs successful is a top-down commitment to being open about and encouraging mental healthcare discussions. If employees feel encouraged to access their mental health benefits, they will more likely be able to acknowledge and seek help for symptoms before a problem escalates. Organizations benefit from a happier workforce and possibly reduce disability-related costs in the long run by leveraging a preventative approach to treating mental health issues.
How virtual care makes happier, healthier employees
Awareness of available resources
It’s crucial that employees be aware of their workplace telemedicine mental health program, have access to assistance when signing up, and are trained on how to use it effectively and safely before implementation. After all, what’s the point of an employee benefits program if nobody is actually benefiting from one? Clearly defining how virtual care will fit into your current employee benefits and partnering with a virtual care provider who can assist with all these points is critical to achieving a successful utilization level of the service.
The member journey
The most effective workplace programs are those designed to holistically meet the needs of employees. By providing employees with convenient access to virtual care, mental health issues can be identified proactively through screening tools. They can then be addressed rapidly with a personalized approach, wellness resources, iCBT, and more. Close follow-ups with a trusted professional are key to ensuring employee outcomes are positive, and developing a relationship with the practitioner is a key milestone to opening up and committing to their self-betterment. For this to happen, the care should be consistent and coordinated for the duration of treatment. Good things happen when employee help and information are not separated or siloed.
Several barriers to care or treatment (like limited access to healthcare resources, the time off work required, the time to travel and wait for an appointment, and feelings of shame) are easily eliminated through a more convenient and integrated solution like virtual care. When an employee is unwell, having a seamless option accessed from the convenience of their own home improves the chances of seeking help and the efficiency of the delivery of care, maintaining patient engagement, and encouraging treatment adherence.
Corporate investment in employee mental health initiatives has unquestioningly increased, but mostly out of necessity [footnote 2]. Compared to the high cost of traditional therapy, virtual care is considerably more affordable. With the proactive approach of a holistic solution that addresses physical and mental health issues, the objective is to minimize mental health-related costs like short-term and long-term disability.
Enhanced privacy and member confidentiality
Since virtual care involves the transmission of sensitive personal information, it’s important to reassure members that their data is safe and secure; it’s the bare minimum they should expect from a virtual platform. Privacy is a common concern with virtual care, but this is gradually subsiding: only 49% of Canadians are now concerned about privacy, down from 58% in 2020 [footnote 3]. When it comes to the safety of members and data protection, virtual care providers must take all the necessary measures to keep client information confidential.
Health is everything. Don’t settle.
The virtual care market has grown exponentially in recent years with mental health being an ongoing battle for many organizations, and they’re now faced with an overwhelming number of options when it comes to selecting a provider. It’s important to remember that not all virtual care services are created equal; choosing a provider that prioritizes positive employee outcomes is one of the best things you can do for your employees and your organization. Every individual is different, but a truly effective mental health program supports the unique needs of every member.
This guide has been summarized for Educate & Explore. To read the full guide visit Dialogue.