As the pandemic creeps on into year three, many are noticing a significant deterioration in their mental health—either through an exacerbation of their existing mental health conditions or simply from exhaustion. Fortunately, all is not lost! There are several strategies that employers may implement to assist their employees through this difficult time, and some are systems that the employer already has in place but are underutilized.
- The first strategy is to remind employees of existing programs that the employer offers, such as employee assistance programs (“EAP”). Many employees report that they have not sought any mental health treatment due to concerns about cost. These employees may be unaware of EAP that their employer may offer. EAP will help the employee find a mental health professional who also accepts the employee’s health insurance, at no cost to the employee. Additionally, an EAP may cover the costs of the first few treatment sessions with a provider, and for someone going through an acute episode, this may be all they need. If services are required beyond the initial sessions covered by EAP, the employee’s health insurance would then take over. Employers should periodically remind employees that any EAP is free, confidential, and dovetails with their existing health insurance to ensure continuity of care, if necessary. Employers should also remind the employees of its “open door policy” with respect to questions about the EAP.
- The second strategy is to highlight any mental health coverage or other insurance benefits (such as a prescription plans) that the employer offers. Many health insurance plans cover mental health treatment. However, certain plans require a referral to avoid out of pocket costs. A common refrain from employees is that they are unsure what items are covered through their employer sponsored health insurance, and therefore are hesitant to use their benefits for mental health treatment. To address this knowledge gap, the HR department for the employer can host periodic discussions or town hall meetings regarding benefit programs. Having these transparent meetings can alleviate confusion and makes employees more likely to utilize the benefits that the employer provides. Here, too, reminding the employees of the “open door policy” encouraging them to come forward with questions about benefits as they relate to mental health services can be helpful.
- The third strategy is to be creative. There is no “one size fits all” approach to mental health. Employers should encourage their employees to voice their concerns about their mental health and how it may be affecting their performance or the office culture. During these feedback sessions, brainstorm with the employees about solutions. Possible solutions include an audit of work assignments and redistribution or hiring additional staff to relieve overwhelmed employees, adjusting schedules, setting office “quiet hours,” one-on-ones, or a presentation by a mental health professional regarding coping strategies for certain types of stress. The focus here should be to collaborate with the employees and generate solutions that will work for both the business and its employees. As an added bonus, this approach can double as the required interactive process required by the ADA.
There are many ways employers can assist their employees with their mental health. At Luchansky Law, we routinely assist employers with strategies and policies that address mental health. If you or your business would like to discuss additional strategies to assist your employees or would like a review of your existing policies, please contact us at (410) 522-1020 to schedule a consultation.