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Mental Health Employee Benefit Trends for 2021

Mental Health Employee Benefit Trends for 2021

3.5 minute read

Since the start of the pandemic, many Americans have reported an increase in anxiety, depression, and thoughts of suicide. Before the pandemic, 5% of employed workers reported poor or very poor mental health issues. Now, 18% of employed workers struggle with mental health issues.

Employers are in a unique situation and may be able to champion mental health and well-being in the workplace. They should focus on employees’ mental health needs, otherwise anxiety, fatigue, and burnout could further impact productivity, employee engagement, and absenteeism. By taking a proactive approach, employers can help employees survive and thrive during uncertain times, cultivate a workplace that reduces the mental health stigma, and demonstrates employee support through tangible benefits.

Consider prioritizing these five mental health benefit trends.


Employee Assistance Programs (EAP)

Initially an EAP’s focus was drug and alcohol abuse, but programs have grown to include a variety of issues. Many EAPs incorporate behavioral health counseling, mental health resources, and therapist appointments. Depending how the program is structured, the EAP may also offer counseling, employee education, hotlines, and referrals.

The most effective EAPs are ones that offer more comprehensive services and integrate with the employer’s health plan, wellness program, disability benefits, and prescription plan. This integration can serve as a preventative measure to address lifestyle issues and address mental health issue that could lower disability and health care costs in the long run.


Online Mental Health Resources

For additional support, employers can expand their employee access to virtual mental health and emotional well-being services and resources. This may include things like apps, videos, and articles. Online resources can help reduce the stigma of seeking mental health care and can address provider shortages.


Telemental Health Coverage

During the pandemic, telehealth options gained popularity. It’s a quick, convenient, and affordable way for employees to seek nonemergency care from the comfort of their own homes. Now telemental, or online therapy services, are also available for employees to use.


Caregiving Support

Balancing work and caregiving responsibilities can be difficult and contribute to poor mental health and increased stress among employees. Employees may be caregivers for elderly parents, home schooling their children, or childcare.

Caregiving benefits can take many forms including flexible scheduling, paid family medical leave, paid leave exclusively for caregiving, sick, vacation, or personal days, or leave-sharing programs.


Flexible Scheduling

To help reduce the number of leave requests and support employees during the pandemic, employers may want to expand, create, and promote a workplace flexibility policy. Flexible may include designated core hours that an employee must work (location irrelevant) and otherwise let them work whenever they like. Other employers may skip core hours and allow employees to work any combination of a 40-hour work week.

Also offering an unlimited paid time off policy can provide employees with the guilt-free time off needed to take all the vacation, sick, and mental health days they need to take care of themselves and their overall well-being.

Mental wellness offerings should be holistic and address all types of needs that contribute to employee well-being in order to be most effective. Prioritize focusing on the health of the whole body and employees’ mind-body connection.

Download the bulletin for more details.


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This blog is intended to be a compilation of information and resources pulled from federal, state, and local agencies. This is not intended to be legal advice. For up to the minute information and guidance on COVID-19, please follow the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and your local health organizations.

National Insurance Services is not a law firm and no opinion, suggestion, or recommendation of the firm or its employees shall constitute legal advice. Readers are advised to consult with their own attorney for a determination of their legal rights, responsibilities and liabilities, including the interpretation of any statute or regulation, or its application to the readers’ business activities.

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Steve Smith

Steve Smith

Steve Smith, Employee Benefits Consultant for National Insurance Services, has his energy level permanently set at “high.” His maxim is “work hard, play hard.” Steve’s an expert in getting groups of people working together for a higher cause. Minnesota schools, cities, and counties rely on Steve’s unique and creative ideas of engaging employees in their own health and wellness to lower utilization trends. He has 20+ years in the health insurance field doing compliance, cost mitigation, utilization, analytics, wellness plans, and strategic planning. Steve is a licensed insurance agent and holds the designations for Managed Healthcare Professional (The Health Insurance Association of America), Certified Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Professional (National Association of Health Underwriters), and Group Benefits Disability Specialist (Hartford School of Insurance). He specializes in Employee Benefits Consulting for Minnesota schools, cities, and counties including fully insured, self-insured, and stop-loss plans.