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October 5, 2021 Bridget Gleason

The Way You Approach Mental Wellbeing Needs to Change

Breaking Down the Modern EAP and the Benefits it can Bring to Your Company

We all know that stress and depression have become major issues in many of our lives. You read or hear about this wherever you turn. There are many causes—problems with work/life balance, health concerns or worries, financial issues, and many more.

As human resources professionals, we know this has become an increasing issue in our workplaces as well. As an HR director, I’ve certainly seen it time and again. And it’s been hard to watch my employees in pain, trying to juggle home, work, health, etc., especially now during the pandemic.

But in addition to the effects on individual employees, do you know how extensive the impact of depression can be on your workforce productivity — on your bottom line?

Referred to as “The Paralysis of Depression in the Workplace” in a recent article in SHRM’s HR News, depression can result in absenteeism, reduced productivity, and decreased work quality. 

SHRM cites the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which estimates that over 200 workdays were lost in the U.S. in 2018 due to depression alone, costing employers between $17 and $24 billion.

And experientially, you know that this has gotten even worse over the last year and a half. 

And stress also has a significant impact on your employees’ health, productivity, and quality of life, causing insomnia, headaches, inability to concentrate, and many other symptoms.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is you now have more and more tools to help alleviate stress and depression and their impact on your workforce. Tools to address depression and stress specifically and tools to improve employee wellness and wellbeing in general. This will then begin to improve stress and depression as well.

As an employer, you want your employees to be happy, healthy, and productive. Of course you do. It’s good for them, and it’s good for your business.

What have you tried in the past?

Old Model of Workplace Wellness

A few decades ago, employers began to think about wellness in the workplace. However, the primary focus was on reducing the financial impact of serious medical conditions such as diabetes or heart disease on health insurance costs.

There were health fairs and health risk assessments, but no real integration of these into the day-to-day life of the workplace. There was some positive impact, but honestly, not a great deal. 

Employers began to offer EAPs (Employee Assistance Programs) that could provide some degree of crisis counseling. But those programs were rarely promoted and employees were often uncomfortable having to come to HR to get information or access those resources, if they even knew they existed.

Some organized programs such as lunchtime yoga, meditation, and walking programs began. Others brought in beer fridges and ping pong tables. But often, workplace deadlines interfered, and attendance was spotty–and some initiatives became a distraction from actual work. 

They were all good ideas, but they didn’t reach deep enough, and they often didn’t have the corporate support for prioritizing them.

You now have many more tools you can give your employees that will make a profound difference in how they live and work.

Related: The New Top Workplace Perk – Workforce Wellness Programs

New Model: a Technology-Supported Employee Wellbeing App

There’s a new model of workplace wellness and wellbeing emerging. It’s driven by advances in technology and draws from ongoing research into mind-body disciplines and traditional modalities like meditation.

It can allow you to reach your employees more effectively – on their terms – and with the services they need and want. 

The best wellbeing apps are designed to meet employees where they presently are on the “engagement spectrum.” Some employees will be excited to have access to mental health counseling. But for many, there is still a stigma attached to acknowledging mental health issues. But they might consider mindfulness training or perhaps life coaching. And both of those will begin to alleviate stress and depression and perhaps also open their minds to exploring formal counseling if needed.

Some of the reluctance to engage in these activities can be reduced by platform confidentiality.

The Way You Approach Mental Wellbeing Needs to Change - employee wellbeing app - man looking down at smartphone in blue room

The Security of Confidentiality

In the old-model EAP, when employees had to come to HR to access mental health services, they often felt exposed and uncomfortable. Many simply wouldn’t ask.

This created an unintended barrier to getting the care they needed. It wasn’t an intentional barrier, but it was a barrier nonetheless.

As today’s HR leaders, what solutions can we provide our employees to feel confident their privacy is protected while accessing those critical mental health tools? We now have more options available to us by blending technology tools with mental health and wellbeing.

Simple but powerful online tools, like the Nivati app, can provide a pathway to greater adoption of mental health services and financial or life coaching. Services that employees can access directly without needing to feel exposed by having to go through HR.

What else can I do?

As you can see, a mental wellness app is a great step toward improving your employees’ access to formal mental health services and activities to support wellness and wellbeing.

However, it’s not enough. We are in the middle of a mental health crisis. It won’t get better until we can speak more openly about mental health challenges.

You and other employers have the opportunity today to take a leading role in de-stigmatizing mental health by openly speaking up about these issues in the workplace.

Your employees will be at differing stages of openness, and your leadership will make a difference. Consider engaging with your CEO, President, or Board Chair and having them actively champion a mental health program. Programs with strong, visible support from management have the highest likelihood of real success.

And perhaps you or another company leader has dealt with mental health in the family and would be willing to be candid and share that experience. The more open mental health conversations that happen, the more it will normalize mental health, and the easier it will be for reluctant employees to come forward and seek resources and care.

And that will be good for them, good for your company, and good for our society as a whole.

The Nivati wellness app provides access to a broad spectrum of wellness tools, including

  • Meditation and mindfulness training
  • Virtual yoga and pilates classes
  • Fitness training
  • Nutrition coaching
  • Finance and budget resources
  • Life coaching
  • Massage classes virtually and in-person massage (in many locations)
  • Teletherapy (mental health counseling)
  • Extensive video libraries on most of these topics
  • And more!

These services are available to employees right on their phone or other device and on their schedule!

THE MENTAL FITNESS TOOLKIT

Get an overview of employee mental health in the workplace – what it is, why it matters, and how you can start supporting employee mental health!

Bridget Gleason

Bridget Gleason spent 30 years in human resources management before she flipped her life around to help communicate solutions for many of the problems facing HR leaders and their workforce.

Bridget began her HR career writing a wellness newsletter while she was still a paralegal at a large law firm. Throughout her career, she has maintained an interest in employee wellness, whether working in benefits management, health plan design, diversity and inclusion, or as an HR generalist.

She now regularly researches and presents solutions for many of the stressors employees are experiencing. This includes employee wellness and wellbeing, financial literacy, solutions for working parents, and more. She wants to get the word out and help change the workplace!

Always enrolled in some college program, in the last few years she has earned undergraduate certifications in linguistics and Spanish and is presently studying medieval Spanish history.

Licenses, Certifications & Memberships

Served as an instructor at the Certified Employee Benefits Specialist certification program through San Francisco State University and Golden Gate University, teaching employee benefits and human resources. Certified Benefits Professional and a Certified Compensation Professional with [email protected]

Education

Earned an MBA from Dominican University of California Earned an Executive Certification in Human Resources Management and a graduate certificate in Health Care Policy from California State University, East Bay

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