COVID-19 has revolutionized the way most people live and work, leading to a stark shift in how companies perceive and support employee mental health. From increased flexibility to dedicated mental health benefits and time off, many employers acknowledged the collective trauma people have experienced in the past 18 months and responded accordingly, realizing productivity suffers when employees aren’t feeling their best.
But are these additional benefits here to stay or do employers plan to shift back to pre-pandemic mental health practices?
Here at Modern Health, we recently commissioned a wide-ranging study of more than 1,700 business leaders, HR leaders, managers and employees to determine whether COVID-19 was a forcing function, a lasting awakening, or a short-term deviation in how companies perceive and plan for mental health benefits. In the survey conducted by Forrester Consulting, we found a notable disconnect between leadership perception and employee experience: 88% of C-suite executives and 86% of HR leaders think they’re doing well in terms of mental health support, yet only 66% of employees feel supported, with 28% saying their employers failed to support their mental health during the pandemic.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 isn’t the only event that had a profound impact on our mental state over the past 18 months. Public incidents of systemic racial violence also necessitated employers to step up their support, but the research found significant room for improvement.
Less than half (43%) of employees said their company showed empathy in response to these events, whether by offering a statement of support for victims or a condemnation of racism, and almost 20% of employees say their employers did nothing in response to these events.
One thing leaders and workers agree on are the positive benefits of mental health support, for both the business and their personal well-being. When leaders were asked about the benefits of offering mental health support to their employees, 67% cited improvement in productivity. At the same time, when asked what benefits their employers would get out of offering mental health support and services, 62% of managers and employees said they would be more productive.
While productivity appears to be the dominant motivator, more than half (56%) of executives and HR leaders also cite an improvement of company culture as a desired benefit and 51% say they hope it improves employees’ sense of belonging and inclusion.
Even if a company did increase mental health support, our research indicates it may be temporary. While most leaders (89%) acknowledge the importance of providing employees with mental health support before it impacts them negatively, when asked if they plan to revert back to the mental health strategy used pre-pandemic, 60% said yes. And even more concerning, a staggering 80% of C-suite leaders and nearly three-quarters of HR leaders say employees today expect too much mental health support from their employers.
However, employees may not stick around if that’s the case because 64% ranked flexible and supportive cultures over salary, saying they’re willing to change jobs to find it. With these clashing priority levels for mental health support in mind, an even bigger “great resignation” may be brewing down the line. With so many open jobs and a rare shifting of power to employees as a result, employers will need to strongly reconsider their stance on long-term mental health benefits if they hope to attract and retain employees.
Mental health issues were here pre-pandemic, and they’re still going to be here post-pandemic.
If employers want to be able to compete in today’s tight labor market, these survey results clearly show company leadership is going to need to listen more closely to employee feedback and make mental health benefits a priority. Not only will it help them attract and retain talent, but it will also help improve their companies’ ROI when all of their employees are supported and able to operate at their maximum potential.
This article has been paid for by Modern Health.
About Modern Health
Modern Health is the comprehensive mental health and wellness platform that combines the WHO well-being assessment, self-service wellness kits, a global network of certified coaches and licensed therapists, all available in a single app. Modern Health empowers employers to lead the charge in acknowledging that mental health is just as important as physical health, destigmatizing the conversation, and increasing accessibility of mental health services for all.
Founded in 2017, Modern Health incorporates evidence-based psychology principles and seamless technology to serve the needs of companies globally. Headquartered in San Francisco, Modern Health has raised more than $172 million from Founders Fund, Battery Ventures, Felicis Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, Afore Capital, MGV, Frederic Kerrest (co-founder of Okta), and 01 Advisors.