Looking for a New Year’s resolution? Prioritize employee mental health.
Prioritizing employee mental health may be one resolution employers want to add to their list this year.
A new year means a new start and a chance to focus on what matters most. With 40% of Americans indicating that they’re stressed about their mental health1 — and 1 in 3 making a New Year’s resolution related to mental health2 — focusing on workforce well-being is a good place to start.
“When employers focus on their employees’ mental health, they’re investing in their most important business asset,” said Dr. Rhonda Randall, chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare Employer & Individual.
An employee’s mental health has ripple effects on their work: About 60% of employees experience a mental block on a daily or weekly basis that prevents them from starting or completing important assignments.3 When employees and their family members experience emotional distress, which can manifest as sleep problems, aches and pains, or low motivation, it may affect their quality of life and may lead to absenteeism, lower work quality, safety-related mishaps and the need for medical care.
What actions can employers take? Here are 3 ways they can help employees prioritize their mental health and well-being.
Remind employees to tap into behavioral health support
Behavioral health benefits are only helpful if employees know they’re there and how to access and utilize them. Employers can remind their employees about the behavioral health benefits that may be available to them, which may include digital self-help tools, in-person and virtual visits, behavioral health coaching and employee assistance programs (EAPs). Not only does this help normalize the use of behavioral health benefits, it also helps employees get the most out of their health plan.
At UnitedHealthcare, for instance, advocates, clinicians and thousands of preferred providers nationwide can help guide employees to a continuum of behavioral health care more quickly and efficiently, depending on the severity and whether the support is needed for the employee or the employee’s family. Knowing what resources are available to them may help them access the support they need, which may lead to better health outcomes and lower costs.
Reiterate the value of virtual behavioral health visits
A study showed that both behavioral health patients and clinicians perceived virtual treatment as appealing and effective, finding that virtual appointments were better attended than in-person visits. This indicates that, in some cases, virtual health options may work better than in-person care for some.4
As such, employers may want to reiterate the convenience of virtual health. Virtual visits may be especially helpful to employees who may be juggling busy work and family schedules since they can be done from the comfort of their home or even behind a closed door at the office. Acknowledging the importance of virtual visits, UnitedHealthcare has grown its virtual visit provider network. Between 2020 and the first quarter of 2023,5 the virtual provider network grew 2,142%, and through the third quarter of 2023, it grew 2,462%.6
Promote wellness at the workplace
The connection between physical and mental health is becoming more and more acknowledged. A recent study shows that exercise enhances both mood and self-esteem, while also contributing to decreased stress, which is known to exacerbate mental and physical disease.7 Employers can promote wellness at the workplace through a variety of ways, starting with communication about its importance.
Employers may also want to offer wellness programs, including incentive-based programs like UnitedHealthcare Rewards where eligible members may earn rewards for tracking their sleep or walking a certain number of steps a day. Or they may want to open an on-site employee health center or offer discounts to local gyms.
"A healthy mind brings strength, clarity and the capacity to navigate life’s challenges. Employees need to know how they can access navigation support for a range of emotional and behavioral health care solutions - employers can play a role in helping them do that."