Benefits Administration, Employee Engagement, Open Enrollment, Voluntary Benefits

The Evolution of Employee Mental Health Benefits

May 23, 2024 | Winston

The mental health and well-being of today’s workforce has been the topic of discussion across many industries for years now, especially in the employee benefits market. In fact, according to a 2024 report by Wellable, mental health is projected to receive the highest level of investment for the fifth consecutive year in a row. While the needs of workers have changed throughout the years, one thing remains constant: mental health benefits are here to stay. Keep reading for a comprehensive look at the evolution of mental health benefits since their rise in 2020 to where we believe the industry is heading.

The Rise of Mental Health Benefits

While the popularity of mental health benefits was on the rise pre-2020, the pandemic and its aftermath significantly accelerated their adoption. A Fortune article revealed that almost 40% of employers expanded mental health benefits during the pandemic. Fast forward to 2024, and a staggering 62% of employers now provide mental health support benefits, as reported by USA Today.

Unfortunately, the pandemic took a toll on workers. Between adjusting to new work settings, finding work-life balance, and being fearful about their health and jobs, the workforce suffered greatly, and HR professionals found themselves in uncharted territory. In response, mental health benefits went from a perk to a necessity for many companies, and their continued use in benefits plans is a resource that employees have come to rely on.

A Varying Workforce

The lasting effects of 2020 changed the landscape of work in nearly every industry. Remote and hybrid jobs have seen significant increases in the last four years, and as a result, the employee benefits market has had to pivot to suit the needs of the varying workforce. Mental health benefits are no exception to this, and many benefits professionals have paid attention to the wants and needs of their employees to hone in on the ideal mental health benefits that their employees will appreciate.

Due to the differing needs of the workforce, many benefits in the mental health sector that were popular in the past have fallen out of favor with employees and employers in 2024. For example, according to the Wellable 2024 Employee Wellness Industry Trends Report, mindfulness and meditation, which had a 74% investment rate in 2023, dropped to 55% in 2024, and a similar reduction was seen in sleep management, which fell from a 20% rate of investment in 2023 to 12% in 2024. 

One explanation could be the ways that HR and benefits professionals have chosen to streamline their offerings through wellness platforms that allow the employees to select the offerings that are most beneficial to them, and in turn, often saving their employers more in investment costs.

Increased Focus on Mental Health

As we venture further into 2024, the state of employee mental health is more critical than ever as the mental health of employees appears to be on the decline. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that 15% of employees aged 18-29 rated their mental health as “somewhat poor,” and the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that depression and anxiety cost the global economy US $1 trillion each year predominantly from reduced productivity.

Many HR and benefits professionals have realized that workplace culture needs to complement benefits offerings to improve employees’ mental health. Some popular methods to improve workplace culture employers utilize include increased paid time off (PTO), spot bonuses, team-building events, four-day work weeks or half-day Fridays, allowing pets and support animals at work, and more benefits to support work-life balance.

At Winston, we believe that HR and benefits professionals must remain on the pulse of the latest trends and updates about employee offerings to give their employees the benefits they deserve. Keep up with the most up-to-date information on the benefits landscape by following us on social media, and be the first to know when we post a new blog!

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Disclaimer: This content is strictly informational and should not be used as specific advice on insurance products, legal, accounting, and/or tax related matters. Insureds should always contact the appropriate licensed professional for their insurance, legal, accounting, or tax needs.

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