Your employees are stressed out, and your COVID-era mental health benefits may not be cutting it anymore.
More than half of employees do not think their employer is doing enough to support their mental health, according to a May survey by The Harris Poll. COVID, global events like the war in Ukraine, and climate change topped the list of stressors impacting employees every day, with 68% saying these issues have a negative impact on their mental health.
Mental health has been top of mind for employers through the pandemic, as 98% of employers added or planned to add to their mental health offerings in 2021, according to a survey by benefit consultancy Sequoia. Yet making sure those benefits are addressing the needs of employees right now may require an audit, says Tracy Allie, senior HR manager for Allstate’s Good Life benefits program. The company recently revamped their mental health offerings, partnering with mental healthcare platform Spring Health.
“During the pandemic, everything was shut down and people were really fearful,” Allie says. “All of those things coming at our employees over the last couple of years haven’t just gone away, so we wanted to continue to look at and invest in care.”
Read more: The hidden effects of pandemic PTSD on your employees
The new program provides employees with six free therapy sessions for themselves or family members, with typical waiting times of just two days, making it easy for employees to get the help they need, when they need it. Employees also have access to an app with meditation exercises and other well-being practices and tools.
“The breadth of what somebody may or may not need can vary,” Allie says. “So there are these different solutions and resources depending on what the person is actually looking for support in.”
Allie shared why Allstate revamped their benefits now and how other employers can follow suit, in a recent conversation with Employee Benefit News.
What were Allstate’s mental health benefits like during the peak of the pandemic, and what led you to revisit that and make some changes?
We’ve been really thoughtful about reducing the stigma and making sure our employees know we care about them. We offer resources that support their well-being, whether it’s physical, mental, emotional, social, work-life, or financial. Even pre-pandemic, we were working on adding behavioral health to our telemedicine programs. We had an EAP. During COVID, we brought speakers to talk about compassion and gratitude and mindfulness and meditation, all the way through talking about suicide prevention.
Read more: Take it from a psychologist: Here’s what you need in your mental healthcare plans
These past few years opened our eyes to the idea that there’s a lot more to the world. When you think about having to add another stressor like social justice and George Floyd, for example, all of those things coming at our employees over the last couple of years haven’t just gone away. We wanted to continue to look at and invest in care, and make access as quick as possible and make it affordable. We wanted to address diversity — people are giving us feedback that they want to talk to someone they identify with and trust.
How is the new partnership with Spring Health addressing all of those goals?
With our new solution, we feel like we can get to some of that — there’s online scheduling where you can schedule an appointment within 48 hours. You can see the profile of the therapist, so you can read some of their background and what their specialties are. After the six free therapy sessions, if you want to continue with that therapist, because you have created that bond, it’ll integrate in your medical plan. Something that was just icing on the cake was that they have availability for kids six and older, which was a really big deal for our employee population.
They also offer care navigation, so if you don’t really know where to start, you can have a care navigator walk you through what your needs are. You might need a therapist or you might just want some lifestyle coaching. The breadth of what somebody may or may not need can vary, so there are different solutions depending on what the person is looking for support in.
That flexibility extends to your work arrangements, too — how does Allstate’s flexible work schedule help employees with their mental health?
We don’t really have office mandates for most of our employees. Less than 1% are considered office-based employees; 75% are home-based, and 24% are hybrid. Some might have a routine where they go in a couple of days a week if the work dictates. We took time in 2021 to evaluate jobs and invest in technology to support employees and support the business.
It became a game changer — it just helps people with their mental health or emotional well-being to have the flexibility, or to get time back because they’re not commuting, or to be a caregiver and take your kids or a parent to a doctor’s appointment. The weight of work-life integration is just so much less when you can work from home.
How would you advise other employers to be adaptive to the mental health needs of their employee community through their benefits and policies?
Your people are really important to how your business is going to succeed. For us, the way we felt we could best support our employees was to really lean into that workplace flexibility, because we knew that could be a way to help support somebody in their well-being story.
You need to understand your workforce and then not be stagnant about it. We’ve been making sure that we’re thinking about what well-being means to each individual and then thinking, how can we help meet those needs for everybody, regardless of what life stage they’re in, regardless of what’s going on in the world? Take that as your cue, and then look at any type of data from surveys. Don’t just say, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. If employees are not taken care of, then we can’t expect our business to thrive the way we want it to.