Anxiety and depression in American adults increased by 5% in the past 15 months, according to a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Rates of substance abuse are also worsening. 2020 saw Philadelphia’s second-highest drug death toll to date. As Philadelphia employees start working in-office again, mental health is at the forefront of employers' minds. Only recently, national surveys revealed a dissonance between employers and employees surrounding mental health issues. 65% of employers believed they strongly supported mental health issues while only 51% of employees agreed
Mental health services
16% of employers across the state are now offering better mental health services, a survey by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans found. Roughly 83% of these employers intend to offer the resources permanently. They include improved Employee Assistance Program benefits, increased mental health visits, online therapy sessions, and access to meditation apps like Calm. Roundtrip, a medical transportation and tech company based in Philadelphia and Richmond Va., provide mental health services to employees via Fringe: a system offering lifestyle benefits like streaming subscriptions and babysitting that can be purchased with points
Less absences and increased productivity
There’s strong incentives for employers to improve mental health services for employees — primarily lower medical and disability expenses, less absences, and increased productivity, advises Margaret Daniele Fallin, the chair of the mental health department at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health. In fact, depression and anxiety alone costs $1 trillion worldwide in lost productivity, the WHO reveals. For every $1 devoted to treating mental health issues, employers get a $4 return in improved health and productivity.
Importance of physical health and safety
The newfound focus on employee mental health certainly doesn’t mean physical health and safety is being neglected. Worker injuries and illnesses have now dropped from 10.9 incidents per 100 workers in 1972 to 2.8 per 100 in 2020. On-the-job injuries typically result in medical bills and lost income. Fortunately, injured employees can file either a workers’ comp or personal injury claim to receive compensation. However, by filing a workers’ comp claim, employees in turn lose their rights to sue their employer with a personal injury suit. In the event of a personal injury at work, a personal injury case can only be made if the employer is 51% or more responsible for the injury. Alternately, workers’ comp provides compensation regardless of who’s at fault.
Overall, employers need to make it clear to employees they’re supportive and understanding about mental health issues, said Jenny Burke, the senior director at the National Safety Council. Otherwise, employees may still be reluctant to take advantage of available resources. Burke advises businesses to use a mental health employer cost calculator to find out how mental health impacts business and profit. “When you have a happier, more productive workforce, and your employees feel safe, supported and engaged with their work, that’s when you’re going to prosper as an organization,” she said.