Employers Recognize Mental Health Issues But Face Challenges In Implementing Solutions

The pandemic has heightened awareness of worker mental health issues, especially burnout and isolation. However, many employers struggle to build a fully integrated approach, with low program participation and limited resources cited as the top barriers to success.

“The COVID-19 crisis accelerated the evolution of workplace well-being efforts,” said Rebecca Ray, Ph.D., executive vice president, human capital, for The Conference Board.

“Organizations are now enhancing their offerings to support multiple aspects of well-being beyond just mental and physical health; social connectedness and professional well-being are just as important.

“These businesses recognize that stress and burnout can take a toll on worker engagement, productivity and job satisfaction. There is a clear business case for fostering well-being initiatives of all types.”

The Conference Board recently surveyed both employees and practitioners responsible for their organizations’ wellness initiatives about mental health issues. Among the findings:

Most businesses recognize well-being as a strategic priority, with buy-in from executive leadership.

  • * More than three-quarters of practitioners agree that holistic well-being is a strategic priority.
  • * Two-thirds believe that executive leaders understand the importance of holistic well-being.
  • * A little more than half believe they have a good understanding of their workers’ well-being needs.

Mental and physical well-being are the top priorities for both organizations and individual workers.

  • * Financial well-being ranked third on the list of organizational priorities but not as high among workers’ concerns; social well-being ranked third for workers.
  • * While most practitioners surveyed believe workers are aware of and seem comfortable using well-being programs, there still is room for improvement.
  • * Only about 40% of practitioners believe workers are “strongly aware” of programs and “very” or “completely” comfortable using them.
  • * More than half believe that workers are only somewhat or moderately aware of the programs that are available to them.

Low program participation and limited funding are the top barriers to a successful wellness strategy.

  • * Limited participation or uptake and limited resources or funding were cited by almost half of respondents.
  • * The lack of an integrated wellness strategy was cited as a barrier by one-third.

Worker participation in well-being offerings stalled or decreased during the pandemic.

  • * Use of online tools and participation in social activities increased.
  • * Participation in all other wellness activities decreased.

“These variations highlight the importance of crafting and implementing more customizable solutions to meet the needs of different businesses, departments and workers,” said Laura Sabattini, Ph.D., principal researcher, human capital, for The Conference Board. “Providing a wide range of offerings and using surveys and other data to understand the specific needs of your workforce will help to address the urgent challenges workers face.”


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