Ocean Spray, the producer of cranberry juice, sauces, and other products, announced it will eliminate employee copays for mental health benefits starting in July 2019. Susan French, Senior Manager of Benefits and Wellness for the Company, said this change will remove barriers that prevent people from receiving help. This expansion of benefits is a clear indication to employees that Ocean Spray cares for and is investing in their well-being.
Behavioral Health Issues Rising
Businesses like Ocean Spray are increasingly concerned with the mental health issues employees face. The World Health Organization just recognized workplace burnout as a medical diagnosis. This is not surprising, as a 2018 Gallup study found 67% of employees felt burned out at least some of the time (with 23% of those feeling burned out often or always). Burnout is only one mental health issue, but like many, workplace stress is the primary contributor to the problem, which is why employers like Ocean Spray are investing in mental health benefits. The National Institutes of Health says that one in five adults live with mental illness and one in 10 full-time workers will be affected by substance abuse.
Employers Expect—And Are Expected To Help
Employees turn to their companies for help with mental health needs and many companies do. In 2018, 86% of companies provided mental health coverage, but unlike Ocean Spray, few waived copays. Even if eliminating mental health copays is not possible, companies can seek additional ways to help employees with mental well-being.
Wellness Programs Provide Support
More companies are introducing employee wellness programs and with good reason. As high deductible health plans (HDHPs) become more prevalent and companies shift a larger share of the financial burden of health care to employees, individuals are looking at ways to decrease costs while still receiving support.
Wellness programs can help prevent or mitigate issues, such as burnout, before they become a full blown syndrome. Companies can target particular stressors in an organization and create a wellness benefit to address it.
Ocean Spray provides employees with free behavioral telemedicine sessions to use for counseling and offers additional wellness benefits to help ease underlying stress resulting from fertility and financial concerns. Other companies offer onsite healthcare, paid leave for parents, paid mental health days, memberships to gyms, onsite yoga classes, and tuition reimbursement.
In addition to providing wellness benefits that address employees’ needs, companies must ensure employees are aware of the resources available. Less than half of employees (47%) surveyed were aware of the support and programs their companies offered, with 42% unaware of any support or programs and 11% who had no idea of what was offered. For wellness programs to be effective, employees need to know about them and be comfortable seeking out the services. Communication from leadership is essential to increase program awareness and decrease the stigma of seeking help.
Companies who want to enhance their wellness programs have a variety of options they can offer employees. The first step is determining what issues need to be addressed most urgently. Then, as Ocean Spray did with the copay waiver, companies can decide how to reduce the barriers so employees can receive the support they need.