Rolling out a corporate mental health benefits program is a complex process, but with help from providers, company leaders can learn the soft skills needed to improve communication, build trust, and overcome barriers to care. Helping employees with the onboarding process, ensuring privacy, and providing peer support for all aspects of employee wellbeing will help optimize engagement with your mental health programs.
The disconnect between employers and employees around mental health support
Thanks to a wealth of innovation and investment into the $5b digital mental health industry, employers have a wide range of options to choose from when it comes to supporting their employees’ mental health. But despite the increase in corporate mental health programs, there is a wide divide between employers and employees when it comes to rating how well companies support the wellbeing of their workers. An October 2021 survey of 2,036 employees and 952 HR leaders conducted by the HR services company Achievers Workforce Institute reported a striking disconnect between employers and employees around mental health:
“Employees were only half as likely as HR leaders to say their company supports employee wellbeing.”
Many company leaders understand what’s at stake: the need to attract and retain top talent is pushing employers to provide more competitive benefits. However, it’s one thing to cover mental health services, it’s another to do so in a way that makes employees actually feel their employer cares about their wellbeing. There are real challenges to doing it right, but thanks to pioneering corporate mental health programs, providers are learning what it takes to engage employees across an enterprise.
Optimize program roll-out
How companies roll out their mental health support services can have a big impact on program utilization. Here are some key elements of successful mental health benefits strategies:
- Talk about the issues – train leaders and managers to engage in discussions about mental health, and enhance their soft skills of empathy and vulnerability
- Provide guidance – make it clear support is available and actively walk employees through the signup process
- Guarantee anonymous access – send clear and frequent messaging so that employees know their use of benefits is confidential (HIPAA compliancy a plus)
- Offer multiple on-ramps – offering support in a variety of topics related to health and wellbeing can bring employees to the table even if they aren’t comfortable with therapy
- Facilitate group activities – opportunities for team building and social connection around fun and entertaining activities can extend the reach of services to more employees and improve engagement
Case study: Nivati – a workplace wellness platform
Building a work culture that effectively supports the mental health of all employees takes time to develop. When choosing a corporate mental health program, HR and benefits leaders should identify providers with the right experience for their needs, especially when adding new services that the company’s leaders are not used to providing. EAPs and mental health providers can help ensure the program is rolled out in a way that fosters trust, awareness, and engagement.
Workplace wellness platform Nivati has onboarded dozens of businesses to their service and learned some important lessons about what works along the way. Founder and CEO, Amelia Wilcox started Nivati in 2020 as an expansion to her existing corporate massage service. When she had to suspend massage operations in March of 2020 due to COVID, she pivoted the business to providing online stress management tools to support employee wellness and rapidly grew the business to include mental health therapies. Currently, Nivati serves SMB and Enterprise clients across the US with virtual 1:1 therapy and coaching, as well as an extensive library of on-demand content covering a range of wellness topics. Wilcox joined Mentera for its inaugural Care Stack Summit, where she shared Nivati’s strategies for overcoming barriers to mental healthcare utilization.
Leading by example: leaders struggle, too
One major barrier Wilcox spoke about is the fear many employees have of exposing weakness to their managers or bosses. She says company leaders have an important role to play when it comes to normalizing communication about mental health:
“In the organizations we work with where we’ve seen leadership in these companies not only saying it’s okay to struggle but even being vulnerable and sharing their own stories, those employees feel safer, and we see higher utilization numbers—they feel like it’s okay for them to get help.”
Mental health support should be confidential
Normalizing the discussion of mental health issues can help to destigmatize the topic and bring needed awareness across an organization, but employees may still feel uncomfortable letting their supervisor or HR manager know they are looking for help. To address this barrier, Nivati has made employee privacy a priority for their services. They offer a web dashboard where company admins can view broad data on company utilization of Nivati’s platform, but Wilcox says they make sure to send clear messaging that each employee’s usage of the service is confidential.
Support for the life issues that cause stress
Nivati provides coaching and education on a wide range of topics beyond the traditional areas of mental health. Users can access libraries of videos and interact 1:1 with professionals in the areas of fitness, sleep, finance, and nutrition. VP of Marketing, David Malmborg, says the diversity of Nivati’s offerings appeals to many employees who would prefer help with issues around a particular topic or behavior rather than jumping right into a therapy session. Someone who is experiencing life stress due to financial concerns may not be comfortable reaching out to consult a therapist, but they might consider talking to a financial coach. Malmborg says that 30% of Nivati users who sign up for 1:1 counseling choose sessions on finance, fitness, and nutrition, or yoga rather than traditional therapy and mental health coaching. Nivati has found that providing multiple on-ramps to wellbeing services can help increase engagement of those employees who may be on the fence about discussing the broader topic of their own mental health.
Effective onboarding sets the tone for future engagement
Sarah McCaslin, Nivati’s director of customer success, says that the onboarding process is critical to achieving the client’s goals for program engagement. Nivati’s client success managers play a key role in this onboarding process. After meeting with the client to identify the company’s specific needs and desired outcomes, the client success manager will start planning for the kickoff meeting, ideally an all-hands meeting introducing Nivati’s services to the entire company. McCaslin says they work with HR leaders to help them stress the importance of having as many employees on the call as possible so that they can see for themselves what services are offered. At this meeting, the client success manager will walk the whole team through the app download and account login process so that all employees have confirmed access from that meeting forward.
Following the kickoff meeting, client success managers work with HR to deliver a 6-week email campaign, which introduces employees in more detail to Nivati’s services, sends alerts about upcoming live sessions, and may mention helpful services relevant to current news and events.
Helping employees feel socially engaged
McCaslin says Nivati likes to see utilization in the 30-40% range for new clients, though this number varies based on the companies needs and specific goals. The important thing about utilization, is that it is an ongoingprocess, and Nivati continues to collaborate with HR and benefits leaders to find new ways to engage employees. Recently, McCaslin has seen an increase in requests for group sessions for team building and social interaction, like cooking classes and other entertaining and educational meetups. Providing ways for employees to connect with their co-workers is another effective way to raise awareness of Nivati’s platform and has been especially effective with the continued reliance on remote workers.
Nivati’s success in reaching many users throughout the organizations they serve stems from a clearly defined onboarding process and its multi-purpose approach to wellbeing. Providing ways for employees to find help at different levels of the client’s Care Stack gives Nivati a broader presence in the organization. As employees become more familiar with the platform, they develop the trust they will need should they have to reach out for a more serious mental health issue in the future. Building this level of trust takes time, but it is an essential to bridging the gap between the company’s leadership and its employees and fosters a culture where employees genuinely feel their employer’s support for their wellbeing.
To view Amelia’s presentation at The Care Stack Summit or to learn more about how Mentera’s Care Stack framework can help your organization, check out the full library of sessions now on-demand.