As employee benefits continue to be an important factor in the competition for quality talent, executives have looked to new offerings to gain a recruiting advantage. Ranging from free coffee and snacks, all the way to access to professional mental health care treatment, organizational efforts to create work environments that promote fulfillment and productivity have become widespread.
Despite these efforts by leadership, overall employee satisfaction remains low in some areas. Many executives want out of their current roles, pushback on phasing out of remote work is prevalent, and many companies are still having trouble finding quality employees.
A new report by One Medical and Workplace Intelligence, which surveyed 800 employees and 800 human resources (HR) professionals, found that, not only did over nine in 10 (91%) employees tell surveyors mental health was negatively impacting their productivity, but the usage of benefit offerings already in place by employees was extremely low. Less than a fifth (19%) of employees said they used their mental health care benefits in 2022.
Health Benefits Complexity
As human resources departments starve for innovation, many may fail to communicate the layers of employee benefits and the ways in which they can be accessed. Over half (55%) of the 800 employees surveyed by One Medical reported feeling overwhelmed when navigating their health care plans and systems, and only half (50%) of employees said they’re aware of “all” or “most” of their employer’s health care offerings.
Whether this complexity is entrenched in the business model of the benefit providers, or a communication breakdown between employees and their HR departments, it is preventing employees from proactively accessing benefits. Less than four in 10 (37%) of employees reported using their benefits for any preventive care.
“Mental and physical health are fundamentally linked, and employees need easy access to comprehensive primary care to help manage their whole health — from preventive and acute care to chronic disease and mental health care management,” said Andrew Diamond, One Medical’s chief medical officer.
Employees don’t have to jump through hoops to receive their salary, and want their health care to be just as seamless. When asked what factors make up “best in class” health care in an employer, top responses were all about transparency and reductions in complexity. Nine in 10 respondents chose things like price transparency (92%), easy-to-use benefits (90%), and convenient access to in-person care (90%).
The technology or virtual access to benefits were of much less concern.
Employee Wellness Declines
Despite efforts from many executives and managers alike to make their work environments as ideal as possible, many employees report feeling emotionally unwell. Three quarters (75%) of employees said their mental health declined or stayed the same last year. Around a third saw decreases in both their physical health (34%) and mental health (32%) within the same timeframe.
Mental and physical health are fundamentally linked, and employees need easy access to comprehensive primary care to help manage their whole health. — Andrew Diamond, One Medical
Declining wellness directly impacts productivity. On top of 64% of workers telling surveyors they are struggling with mental health issues, almost half (45%) said their mental health is costing them and their employers over five hours of working time per week. HR teams and executives face the challenge of these numbers while the cost of benefits continues to rise. Over eight in 10 (82%) of HR leaders expect increases to their health care budget this year.
HR leaders — 91% of those surveyed — are encouraging employees to be diligent in seeing a primary health care provider. Primary health care providers offer more access to certain types of benefits at lower cost, and data shows primary care may solve a lot of the issues employees are facing.
The Underutilization of Health Benefits
In order to solve the underutilization of mental health care benefits, HR leaders several levers they can pull. With 47% telling surveyors improvements in the health care experience for employees through care navigation solutions is a top strategy, as well as increasing awareness and communication around benefits and improving mental and behavioral health benefits.
Employers have come a long way in their support of employees’ mental health, but workers aren’t making the most of the benefits available to them. — Dan Schawbel, Workplace Intelligence
HR will also continue to push for primary care solutions, the most added solution (56%) within health care initiatives from industry leaders this upcoming year. Solutions for chronic disease management, telemedicine, and care navigation were also popular additions.
“Employers have come a long way in their support of employees’ mental health, but workers aren’t making the most of the benefits available to them,” said Dan Schawbel, managing partner at Workplace Intelligence. “It’s critical that companies focus on improving care navigation, including pointing people to primary care as a first step, if they want to move the needle on this issue. Those that don’t will continue to experience productivity losses and other negative outcomes that can result from poor workforce mental health.”