Experts in the employee benefits sector have been discussing worker mental health benefits for a number of years. Even before COVID, the idea of expanding such benefits was on the radar. Conventional thinking suggested that standard health insurance alone was no longer enough to compete in a tight labor pool. But now, in the aftermath of COVID, mental health benefits may be more important than ever before.
A 2020 narrative review published by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health clearly demonstrates a link between COVID-related stress and increased mental health issues at work. And given that COVID is not likely to go away in the very near future, any related mental health issues are not going away either. This should be a wake-up call to employers.
Expanding worker benefits to include mental health should be on the table for every employer as we approach preparations for 2021 enrollment. Those who already offer mental health benefits should seriously consider expanding them. BenefitMall, a Dallas-based general agency, offers the following three reasons for doing so:
1. Mental Health Affects Productivity
From a purely business standpoint, mental health affects employee productivity. We have known that for a long time. In fact, the link between mental health and productivity has already prompted some employers to begin offering mental health benefits along with standard health insurance. It is just good business.
COVID has already altered the way companies do things. It has led to more remote work, redefined roles, new technologies, and a lot more. It has also increased the pressure on some employees who feel overwhelmed by so many changes coupled with their own fears of getting ill. If mental health benefits can help relieve some of that pressure, it might also help employees maintain productivity.
2. Current Benefits Are Limited
As things stand, most standard health insurance policies offer only limited mental health coverage. For example, ACA compliant plans generally don’t pay for counseling therapies because they are not considered medically necessary. On those rare occasions counseling is approved, it must be conducted by a clinical psychologist, psychiatrist, or licensed clinical social worker.
Expanding coverage to include non-clinical counseling and therapy would open the door to more employees getting the help they need to overcome their problems. Without insurance coverage, cost is always an issue. Employees are likely to forgo counseling because they cannot afford another bill.
3. Employees Want It
Finally, employers should consider expanding mental health benefits because their employees want them to do so. Think of it this way: BenefitMall offers a comprehensive suite of insurance broker services because their brokers want them. Providing the services keeps brokers happy. And happy brokers are content to continue working with BenefitMall.
A company whose employees want mental health benefits risks losing a certain percentage of its workforce by not offering them. Some workers will undoubtedly look for new jobs for which mental health benefits are included. Employers have to either compete or be prepared to lose valuable staff.
Mental health benefits have been a matter of discussion for quite some time now. But not until 2020 did the need for such benefits become so evident. Some 17 months since the start of the COVID crisis, employers are now having to seriously think about employee mental health and how it affects the workplace.
One of the easiest things that employers can do to improve employee mental health is to expand benefits. A new health insurance policy that pays for both clinical services and non-clinical therapy and counseling can make a real difference to employees.