Employee preferences when it comes to the workplace have drastically shifted over the last few years. Today, more employees than ever before want to work for companies that are mission-driven. They are motivated by more than just dollar signs, and increasingly care about social issues and want to work for companies that are doing good in the world. These factors are prompting more and more organizations to create, or revamp, an Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) strategy, and it’s paying off. Research shows highly satisfied employees rank their employers’ ESG scores 14% higher than the average global employer, resulting in happier and harder working employees.

However, we are seeing that at the same time, employee mental health is at an all-time low, with one shocking report revealing that nearly 60% of employees are negatively impacted by work-related stress. Considering the dire state of employee mental health, as companies work to evaluate their ESG approach, it’s important they consider mental health as part of how they invest in their people – or the social part of an ESG strategy. In fact, a Deloitte study found that 77% of employees report experiencing burnout. If this growing issue remains unaddressed, company leaders are looking at decreased productivity, unhappy employees, and loss of talent. Company leaders aren’t stuck between a rock and hard place when it comes to benefits that can make a positive impact on employees’ overall mental health and wellbeing. So, the question remains, what can be done?

Here we explore best practices companies should consider when enhancing their mental health benefits and why this is critical to an ESG strategy in today’s highly burned-out work environment.

Offer digital mental health tools

More than 1 in 4 workers quit their jobs due to mental health struggles, with another 2 in 5 contemplating quitting for similar reasons. If this growing issue remains unaddressed, company leaders are looking at decreased productivity, unhappy employees, and a loss of talent.

In an effort to effectively help employees manage their mental health and wellbeing, one effective approach involves providing employees with access to digital mental health tools that can support their mental health journey at any and all stages. The best tools will offer seamless and 24/7 access to interactive programs, resources, and videos. They’ll allow employees to engage with mental health coaches, or virtual therapists, or even be transitioned to in-person care depending on their individual needs. Digital tools are a great way to give employees low-cost access to care when and where it works for them. Not only do digital health tools provide critical access to important mental health care, but employers can also benefit from less missed work hours due to employees traveling to and from appointments. In fact, 68% of employers globally expect to increase their investment in digital health care offerings, and 40% of employees say they would be more likely to stay with a company that offers digital solutions.

Create flexible work environments

Another benefit that can pay dividends for employee mental health is offering a flexible workplace. It’s no longer an option to have a one-size-fits all mandate when it comes to employee experience. For example, some employees may feel that their mental health is better when they are in-person and engaging with colleagues. Others may prefer to work from home. No matter the case, it’s important to give employees the power to choose where and how they work. Whilst flexible working policies are the start, it’s also important that line managers put these into practice through empowering individuals and teams to tailor their work approach to their needs. Not only can it help support their mental health journey, but it can also build trust with employees, showing them that you trust them to get their job done in the way that works best for them. With burnout at an all-time high, employees want to know that work can fit into their schedule and lifestyle, not the other way around. They want to know that if they have to log on early to attend an afternoon doctor’s appointment or watch their kid’s soccer game, they won’t be questioned about it. This becomes even more clear when you look at the data: Employees today report wanting more flexible work hours (41%), respectable time off (34%), hybrid and remote work capabilities (33%), and four-day weeks (31%).

Prioritize employee holistic wellbeing

Recent research shows 59% of employees would seriously consider switching to a company that offers stronger wellbeing benefits than their current job. What’s more, prioritizing employee wellbeing upfront is proven to reduce both medical and health care costs, lower employee absentee rates, offset wellness program costs, and result in overall company savings. For many people living with a mental health condition, there can be a ripple effect, with comorbidities including cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, along with substance abuse disorders, being more prevalent in mental health patients, ultimately translating to higher cost for employers. Some benefits to consider when showing employees you prioritize their total wellbeing include offering designated mental health days off, providing educational webinars and resources focused on mental health, and EAP programs. It’s also important to work to normalize conversations around mental health. This should start from the top. Executives and managers need to lead with empathy and by example when it comes to talking about mental health and setting healthy habits in the workplace.

Related: The importance of communicating mental health benefits in the workplace

At the end of the day, prioritizing the mental health needs of employees should be deeply embedded in all aspects of workplace culture. Show employees you aren’t just talking the talk by making mental health a clear part of your ESG strategy. The results will be a more engaged, productive, and happy workforce which will pay dividends on your company’s bottom line. By putting in the time and effort to work with your employees on their mental health and wellbeing, you’re setting your company up for an overall growth and satisfaction rate that puts everyone on top.

Amber Howe, Chief People Officer at Amwell

Dr. Carolyn Lorian, Head of Clinical Transformation at Amwell

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