Inclusive Mental Health Initiatives: A Powerful Differentiator for Employers

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Posted by: CMR September 27, 2023 No Comments

Mental health is not just a public health issue. It is also a workplace issue. Employers who cultivate a company culture that proactively supports mental wellness can gain a competitive edge in their ability to attract and retain talent.

“An employer’s support of mental health in the workplace can be a differentiator in today’s challenging labor market,” said Adele Spallone, head of Clinical Operations for The Hartford, a leading employee benefits provider. “Our research found that a majority of U.S. workers (61%) said they want to work for a company that prioritizes its employees”mental health.”

Many of today’s employees are burned out and stressed as long work hours, heavy workloads, and economic uncertainties take their toll. It is possible that some of your employees are among them.

According to The Hartford’s 2023 Future of Benefits Study, 60% of U.S. workers surveyed said they are experiencing some level of burnout at work as many employers expect their workforce to work long hours and be available after normal working hours.

Now throw into the mix financial concerns in today’s uncertain economy, such as inflation’s impacts on prices of everyday products and housing. .

Feelings of burnout and stress not only impact one’s personal life — often resulting in irritability, unhealthy eating habits, trouble sleeping, etc. — but it can also negatively affect their productivity on the job.

In fact, the World Health Organization stated that, globally, an estimated 12 billion working days are lost every year to depression and anxiety at a cost of $1 trillion per year in lost productivity.

Further underscoring this point, The Hartford’s Future of Benefits Study has shown, year-over-year, a connection between employee mental well-being, mental health support, and the impact on a company’s bottom line. In the most recent 2023 study, 64% of Human Resources (HR) professionals said the deteriorating mental health of their workforce has a negative financial impact on their company.

Not only is job-related burnout real, so is the stigma associated with mental health.  That is why it is critical that employers cultivate a culture that proactively supports mental wellness and ensures that everyone has access to the support and resources they need – and feels safe and comfortable seeking help. This leads to employees who are less stressed, more engaged, and, ultimately, more productive.

Transforming mental health

Employers are uniquely positioned to transform mental health. While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, the mental health support that companies can offer should encompass a range of resources that matches the specific needs of their employees and their families.

“Employers have the power to transform mental health through empathetic leadership, inclusive and collaborative workplaces that foster connection, and more resources tailored to the unique needs of employees and their families,” Spallone said.

One of the key steps is removing the stigma associated with mental health. Stigma can be a major barrier to employees seeking help so it is important that employers have senior leadership buy-in and manager training that will make it safe to speak out in the workplace and okay to access mental health support.

Spallone explains it is important managers are properly trained and equipped with the knowledge to spot signs of someone struggling (i.e., irritability, lateness, changes in appearance, increased conflict, etc.). Managers must also understand how to refer those employees to the right resources.

Research suggests there remains room for improvement.  According to The Hartford’s research, more than half (58%) of U.S. workers surveyed said they believe employers should provide more mental health training for managers. U.S. workers also said that employers should provide additional mental health tools for employees (59%), and better resources for their dependents (58%).

Spallone offers these actions for employers looking to better support mental health in the workplace:

  • Invest in manager training on mental health fundamentals so they can better identify signs that a worker may be struggling or burnt out.
  • Think beyond the traditional EAP and consider adding digital apps and wellness programs to their benefits packages.
  • Keep in mind that wellness programs designed for specific issues, such as insomnia, have added mental health advantages.
  • Foster a stigma-free culture with leaders using inclusive language, demonstrating empathy, prioritizing confidentiality, and modeling behaviors.
  • Provide staff with greater flexibility for a better work/life balance (e.g.., enabling remote or hybrid work, more breaks, adjusting shifts, etc.)
  • Review EAP capabilities to ensure they align with workers’ needs. An examination of data gathered about EAP services used by employees and their dependents, such as number of sessions used and reasons for visits, will help employers assess employees’ needs and gauge the value of offered services.
  • Help make employees aware of mental health and emergency crisis hotlines, such as the helpline by the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

In addition, it is important for employers to invest in inclusive mental health initiatives and embed those initiatives into diversity, equity & inclusion (DEI) strategies. By making the business case for mental health as part of DEI, employers can help company leaders understand the tangible business benefits of having an inclusive culture grounded in equity. Doing so can be a powerful differentiator in today’s labor market.

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The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc., (NYSE: HIG) operates through its subsidiaries, including underwriting companies Hartford Life and Accident Insurance Company and Hartford Fire Insurance Company, under the brand name, The Hartford®, and is headquartered at One Hartford Plaza, Hartford, CT 06155. For additional details, please read The Hartford’s legal notice at © 2023 The Hartford

Author: CMR

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