Employers grappling with the post-pandemic worker shortage have been innovating with new ways to hire and retain workers. But with salaries soaring, many are still struggling to find a path forward, and workers are stressed, burned out, and leaving.
To differentiate themselves from the competition in 2023, employers should consider redefining their employee value proposition to demonstrate their commitment to their workers’ well-being from the start of the employee-employer relationship.
Employers should also consider using lessons learned from the pandemic to innovate and expand their mental health-related benefits and to increase awareness of existing offerings to attract and retain employees.
Expand Access to Mental Health Services
During the Covid-19 pandemic, the lines between work and home blended for many employees. Working women and children often bore the brunt of the fallout from the pandemic. School and day-care closures, the demands of remote work and virtual school schedules, and the loss of loved ones all contributed to a prolonged period of isolation.
All of that can take a toll of its own. As highlighted in a 2022 report by US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, competing work and personal demands can often magnify psychological stress. Also, employees with children may need additional support to help their children adjust to post-Covid life. This was reinforced by the US Preventive Services Task Force’s Oct. 11 recommendation that all children and adolescents ages 8 to 18 years old be screened for anxiety.
In addition to coverage for mental health services, employers looking to demonstrate their commitment to employees’ well-being should continue to promote parent-friendly policies and practices in the workplace such as:
- parental leave and paid time off;
- flexible scheduling, such as remote or hybrid work, compressed work weeks, flextime, and summer Fridays;
- emergency child care;
- a culture where employees feel safe taking mental health days; and
- training programs aimed at teaching managers to identify and have tough conversations with employees that might be experiencing mental health issues.
Increase Access to Treatment
Telehealth represents a growing segment of the health-care sector. Early in the pandemic, the Medicare program expanded telehealth access for beneficiaries. In addition, many states lifted licensing barriers, allowing doctors to treat patients remotely. With this in mind, employers should look to expand telehealth offerings, especially for mental health services. In addition, employers can offer plans with more in-network behavioral health providers, despite the current shortages of behavioral health providers.
Finally, employers can turn to employer-sponsored EAPs and benefits providers that provide workers with free therapy, coaching, and self-guided care sessions, using various modalities such as live video, live messaging, in-person visits, phone calls, or onsite care.
Renew Focus on Mental Health Parity
In 2023, employers will face more scrutiny in the form of increased litigation over mental health parity, heightened compliance enforcement, and possibly even new legislation. To get ahead of this trend, employers should take a more active role in ensuring that their insurers and third-party administrators are complying with mental health parity requirements.
The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act requires mental health and substance use disorders to be covered by insurance plans to the same extent that coverage is provided for medical and surgical benefits. The Biden Administration has emphasized a focus on mental health parity enforcement. Meanwhile, states are still struggling to enforce mental health parity laws.
In September, the House passed the Mental Health Matters Act. This bill, if signed into law, would provide the Department of Labor with strengthened authority to enforce mental health parity violations.
Focus on Equity
Employers can reinforce their commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility by promoting mental health-friendly policies and practices in the workplace.
This can be an especially valuable retention practice for employers of health-care workers, caregivers, members of historically marginalized communities, and other population segments that employees can identify as adversely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Remove the Stigma
Employers can also find innovative ways to engage employees in activities, such as “lunch and learn” conversations and social media video campaigns, which facilitate shared learning experiences. Employees may be more likely to utilize mental health benefits if they build trust with their peers and feel a sense of belonging.
To retain and recruit top talent in 2023, employers are going to have to meet employees where they are in the workplace. The connection between employee well-being and employee productivity is undeniable. Home demands can negatively affect employees, and employees are more likely to perform better at work when their whole person is supported by their employers.
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