As employers continue to expand mental health supports, COVID-19 is making the case for those investments

Workplace supports for mental health are becoming increasingly important as workers stay home, a new survey shows. (asiandelight/Getty Images)

The overwhelming majority of employers now offer emotional and mental well-being supports as part of their wellness programs, according to a new survey.

The survey of 152 jumbo, large and midsized firms released by the Business Group on Health and Fidelity shows 95% offer these supports in their wellness programs.

And while these supports were proliferating before COVID-19, they’re proving their value now more than ever as more people work remotely, researchers said.

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There is a broad sense of shared stress due to the pandemic, LuAnn Heinen, vice president of well-being and workforce strategy at the Business Group on Health, told Fierce Healthcare.

“I think it’s an 'aha!' moment,” she said.

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Supports that may particularly benefit newly remote workers as they adjust to the changes include virtual therapy, which 69% of employers are offering this year. In addition, 49% are offering resiliency programs and 50% are offering stress management options, which may also be particularly helpful to workers stuck at home.

Another benefit that could pay off for teleworkers is support for sleep health, which is seeing greater interest from employers. One-third (33%) will offer tools targeting sleep this year, up from 25% in 2019.

Heinen said resiliency efforts have proven pivotal in helping workers navigate the stress related to COVID-19. The pandemic has created plenty of uncertainties beyond adjusting to new workflows, she said.

“Our routines are all changing. All of this is messing with our minds,” she said.

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Plus, the survey found employers are also putting a greater emphasis on investing in supports to improve employees' work-life balance. Overall, 78% of the employers surveyed said they were offering supports in this area.

That includes caregiver supports, offered by 46%; tools for new parents, which 36% of employers offer; and childcare supports, offered by 35%.

Heinen said offering programs to support financial health will also be increasing in prominence, especially as the pandemic continues to have far-reaching impacts on the economy.

“There’s just a lot of concern there,” she said. “Many companies are thinking that is the next wave that will be needed.”

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