The U.S. Surgeon General’s recently released Workplace Well Being report has confirmed what we already knew—toxic workplaces are bad for our mental and physical health. They’re also bad for business. And the global pandemic, climate change, and geopolitical and economic uncertainty have worsened matters for more people.
For employees, chronic stress exposure can lead to anxiety, depression, and substance use disorders. Left untreated, stress can also contribute to the development of costly chronic medical conditions like diabetes and heart disease. This can push many employees and their families into a downward spiral of financial uncertainty and debt. It’s a truly vicious cycle.
Turning a blind eye to toxic workplaces can be very costly for businesses. One in five adults suffers from mental health challenges each year, leading to missed work days and decreased focus at work. The resulting costs from increased absenteeism and attrition, decreased productivity, and increased healthcare costs are estimated to range from $30 billion to $50 billion each year. Many employers have begun taking action. From offering flexible working hours to adding EAP benefits to health insurance plans to offering meditation classes, spending on corporate wellness programs and services topped $51 billion in 2021.
While offering yoga classes at lunch or providing access to mindfulness apps can be an easy place to start, employers who want to achieve a positive and sustainable impact on employee well-being must address the underlying challenges of mental health care in our country. In the U.S., 4 in 10 adults who need mental health care are unable to get it. What are the top reasons? Access to quality care is limited. Costs are high. Stigma is stubbornly persistent.
What should employers do? The Surgeon General’s report provides a powerful framework for employers who want to assess and address workplace well-being. Employers should review the framework. Talk with employees. Listen to what they need. Identify gaps, then develop a plan that fits their unique work environment. But access to quality behavioral health care must be a part of any strategic plan.
Writing in the Harvard Business Review, John Torous and Elena Rodriguez-Villa offer employers this sage advice, “The best thing you can do for your employees is to offer them robust health care coverage at a reasonable price. This coverage should include comprehensive mental health care that makes face-to-face therapy with a licensed clinician affordable and accessible.” We couldn’t agree more.
The rewards are tremendous for employers who invest in improving mental health in the workplace. Increased productivity, decreased attrition, improved employee engagement, increased ability to recruit top talent, and so on. Research from the NSC and NORC at University of Chicago reveals that companies investing in mental health see a return of $4 for every dollar spent.
In his introduction to the U.S. Surgeon General’s report, Vitak Murthy writes, “Revitalizing our workplaces to support mental health and well-being is how we can turn a moment of crisis into a moment of progress.” Building better workplaces for people and business is one of our generation’s most important leadership challenges and one of the most powerful ways we can impact our employees and our communities.
The pandemic exposed enormous weaknesses in our mental health infrastructure due to decades of neglect. Employers have struggled to find viable solutions that promptly address a full spectrum of behavioral health challenges. Mental Health Apps and EAP programs are not enough and do little to address the member experience.
Recognizing this gap in high-quality, employer-sponsored behavioral health was, in large part, what drew me to the Williamsburg Therapy Group (WTG). We created the Employer Program, which has been purpose-built to provide employees and their loved ones with concierge-level access to the highest-trained mental health doctors in the Brooklyn and NYC markets. With access to WTG, employers will have peace of mind, knowing their employees have access to the best mental health resources and can show up as their best, most productive selves.
About: Jesse Gomez is the Chief Revenue Officer for Williamsburg Therapy Group and brings over 20 years of experience designing and implementing workplace benefit strategies that engage employees and improve culture. He has served as an executive leadership team member for other high-growth digital health companies. All focus on making high-quality care more accessible while improving the patient experience.
By Jesse Gomez