New Study Sheds Light on Mental Health in the Workplace

There is no surprise or mystery surrounding the challenges faced by employers these days. Employer struggles throughout the United States economy are well-documented. As we approach the mid-way point of 2022, companies continue to seek stability in the number of workers they employ and to find creative ways to do business in light of our changed business world. And although many aspects of the pandemic appear to be disappearing from our daily lives, new research from The Hartford reports that a full 71% of employers feel the deteriorating mental health of their workforce is having a negative financial impact on their company. In addition to that staggering stat, 34% of United States workers reported feeling depressed or anxious at least once a week in 2022, which is up from a reported 20% in 2020.

Interestingly, The Hartford’s 2022 Future of Benefits Study, which polled both workers and human resource benefit decision makers, shows that even as employers’ productivity-related concerns increased in the past few pandemic years, the number of Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), wellness benefits, and addiction treatment programs offered by employers actually dropped between 2020 and 2022. The study shows that 54% of employers offered an EAP in March 2020, compared to only 30% reporting such offerings in February of this year.

“Our data shows an undeniable, direct correlation between employee mental well-being, mental health support, and the impact to a company’s bottom line,” said The Hartford’s chairman and CEO Christopher Swift. “Employers who want a contemporary, inclusive workplace that supports its people should proactively invest in mental health, with an eye to empathy and equity. The need is real, and the time is now.”

In a recent news release that highlights the study, Mr. Swift is identified as a vocal advocate for public-private partnerships to address mental health and addiction in the workplace.

Some of the results of The Hartford’s survey indicate that employers in the US think they’re supporting mental health, while at the same time, workers seem to believe that companies are falling short on access, flexibility, and resources. For example, consider these findings:

  • 82% of employers said their workforce has more access to mental health resources than in previous years, while only 50% of workers say the same.
  • 80% of employers said workers have flexibility in their schedule to get the mental health help they need, compared to only 53% of workers who say they do.
  • 79% of employers said mental health had improved thanks to the company’s resources, compared to just 35% of workers saying the same thing.

The study reflects some intriguing responses in the area of substance misuse and addiction.
Two-thirds of employers say that substance misuse and addiction is a significant workplace
issue, which is a 30% jump since March 2020. While 72% of employers acknowledge stigma
prevents workers from seeking treatment, workers report that they do not feel company leaders
are taking appropriate action to dispel stigma. These differing responses illustrate the gap:

  • 82% of employers report that they have an open and inclusive environment that inspires dialogue about mental health, while only 48% of workers agree.
  • 81% of employers report that leadership at their company encourages conversations about mental health, while again, only 48% of workers agree.

Mental health is an important and pervasive issue throughout the US workforce. If you have companies or employee benefit decision makers as your clients, you may be in an excellent position to help by sharing your knowledge of what both companies and workers are dealing with, and pointing them toward resources that can help. If you’re looking to add value, this may be your opportunity to do so.

Charles K. Hirsch, CLU, is the president of Hirsch Communications Consulting, LLC, a communications consulting operation in Florissant, MO. For many years, Chuck was the editor and publisher of Life Insurance Selling magazine and has published several of the leading life insurance industry magazines. He continues to contribute articles on a regular basis to industry publications, in addition to providing a wide range of writing, editing, content development, and marketing services through his firm. He is a regular contributor to NAILBA Now e-Newsletter as well as to Perspectives magazine.