Brokers and employers need to offer better mental health benefits | EBA

Employees have a lot on their minds these days, but employers may be dropping the ball when it comes to providing mental health support and resources. 

A new survey by Uprise Health, a digital EAP provider, revealed that 35% of employers are not offering mental health and wellness benefits, and 43% of respondents say their employees are having a hard time accessing care, even when it’s offered. 

“Everything from the economy to the war in Ukraine, to major changes in people’s healthcare with the recent news from the Supreme Court, you would imagine mental health benefits would be top of mind for employers,” says Mike Nolte, CEO of Uprise Health. “There’s still a third of  folks that basically have done nothing, which just seems completely out of character with the several years of pressure on their employees.” 

Read more: Why Allstate revamped their mental health benefits more than 2 years into COVID

The need for support has become increasingly dire: an April survey by the American Institute of Stress found that 83% of employees are stressed, with work as the top cause. The COVID pandemic has increased instances of depression and anxiety 25% worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. 

Employers aren’t just ignoring the challenges employees are going through, Nolte says; rather, they’re feeling underwater themselves. Half of HR leaders said finding access to nontraditional benefits like mental health offerings was a challenge, and 34% cited HR staff shortages for why they haven’t been able to boost their benefits. 

“There’s a lot more on their plate — mental health is a piece of it, but they’re making decisions around office space, trying to drive culture virtually and retain employees,” Nolte says. “We’ve put a ton of pressure on what HR professionals have to focus on day-to-day, and everything is harder.” 

Read more: How top-tier EAPs are helping parents address their children’s post-COVID mental health issues

But employers don’t need to do this all on their own — finding a good benefits partnership can help take the weight off of HR, Nolte says. The Uprise Health survey found that many HR leaders expressed dissatisfaction with their current broker relationships, with 32% saying their benefits partner has not been proactive in offering mental health benefits, and 49% saying they talk with their benefits professional too infrequently to establish a plan. 

But the right partnership can help employers navigate not just benefits, but a workplace strategy, Notle says. Uprise Health provides EAP services to employers, and the relationship with their clients has fundamentally changed from not just pitching and selling a benefit, but working in tandem with HR leaders. 

“We see an opportunity for the broker community to change how they engage and become more of a consultative partner as HR professionals are struggling to get out of the crisis reactive mode,” Nolte says. “Three years ago, that wasn’t our business — mental health was more of an afterthought and an EAP was an 800-number you’d find at the bottom of your benefits packet. That’s changed fundamentally.” 

If employers want to keep up with employee demand for health and well-being benefits, it will take a joint effort from both HR leaders and brokers to understand the business case for prioritizing those offerings, Nolte says. 

“I think what’s necessary is having a good strategic partner to help you think through the options that are available to you and the choices that are there,” Nolte says. “I think generally, most HR professionals are doing the best they can — what has to change in part is business leaders like me, influencing the investment and business case for why this matters.” 

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