Summary: Mental health benefits are now table stakes for many companies, but many employees may not be using them. As employers explore more bespoke solutions to mental health challenges, a solution to unlocking engagement is emerging: offer expert guidance on the issues that cause the most stress for employees.
With the mental health epidemic now affecting more of today’s workforce than ever before, employers are ramping up their benefits offerings to include support for their employees’ mental well-being. As helpful as these benefits can be, engagement with these programs remains low. Some HR leaders are discovering that the key to success for mental health programs is understanding and addressing the specific causes of employees’ stressors.
A Rise in Mental Health Benefits
Employers now have a multitude of providers to choose from to support workers’ mental health needs, and in many workplaces, mental health benefits are now standard. The 2024 Large Employer Health Care Strategy Survey by The Business Group on Health reported spending on mental health is still on the rise:
- 36% of employers are prioritizing expanding access to mental health services—it’s one of their top healthcare initiatives in 2024
- 77% of large employers reported an increase in mental health needs—a 33 percentage-point surge over the previous year
- These rising mental health needs are contributing to higher overall healthcare spending by 8.4%
This translates to more services for employees, including virtual therapy, peer support groups and employee resource groups, flexible scheduling, and more leave time.
Engagement is Still a Problem
While discussions about mental health are becoming normalized, employees may still be reluctant to access mental health services. A survey of 1,600 employees and HR professionals by provider One Medical found that while only 19% of employees used their available benefits in 2022, even though two-thirds said they are struggling with mental health or behavioral issues.
This gap is a problem for HR leaders like Bryan Power, Head of People at Nextdoor, who realizes the one-size-fits-all model of addressing mental health—such as offering more time to take paid leave—is not sustainable for many companies. He saw the need for a more individualized approach that could provide outsized returns for employees and reinforce a culture of caring: “It’s just way more meaningful to do something that’s significant versus try to do all the stuff all the time that they don’t really need…I’m looking for this kind of model of deep expertise and resources around a very specific challenge.”
Supporting Employees with Family Care Responsibilities
For a growing number of today’s workforce, a major source of stress and overwhelm stems from balancing responsibilities of work with those of caregiving for family members. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that this burden is a significant cause of mental health issues:
- 57% of caregivers report experiencing clinically significant levels of stress, anxiety, or depression
- 38% of family caregivers find their situation extremely stressful
- 20% of family caregivers suffer from depression, which is twice the rate of the general population
Comprehensive Family Care: The Missing Link
Like Bryan at Nextdoor, HR leaders at DocuSign identified a similar disconnect between the benefits they were offering and the needs of their workforce. Their research helped them to clearly understand the causes behind their employees’ mental health challenges:
“After examining employee engagement surveys and having conversations with employee groups, we found that employees were struggling in providing care for aging, ill, or vulnerable loved ones. It was really clear that we needed to support our employees in ways that we hadn’t before.”
—Ellen Meza, Senior Director, Global Benefits, Well-Being & Mobility, DocuSign
Although DocuSign had benefits in place to cover some of this need, engagement was low. The support they thought they were providing wasn’t making the desired impact.
For their employees who were struggling to navigate the complexities of family caregiving, both Nextdoor and DocuSign turned to Grayce for help with a combination of an expert Care Partner team and robust tech platform. Grayce’s solution provided the additional benefits to address the three key components of stress from caregiving: the emotional stress of the role, knowing what to do, and the intense time requirements of caring for loved ones.
Because Grayce’s multi-pronged approach focuses on identifying and resolving caregiving needs from beginning to end, it directly addresses the root cause of employees’ family care-related anxiety, stress, and depression. For many of Grayce’s clients, this is the critical catalyst for engagement that they’re missing in their mental health benefits. At DocuSign, utilization of the company’s other mental health benefits doubled, and 75% of Grayce members reported reduced stress after working with Grayce
“When we have opportunities to provide really good impact on a life event, where we can prove to the employee that they can rely on us in that time of significance, we’re going to prioritize that.”
—Bryan Power, Head of People, Nextdoor
Embracing Comprehensive Caregiving Support in the Workplace
The evolving landscape of workplace mental health well-being calls for an investment in comprehensive caregiving support. Employees face intense strains from caregiving, with its overwhelming responsibilities and profound impact on mental health.
Some employers are rising to the occasion and embracing a leading cause of mental health issues—family care challenges. By integrating the crucial element of family care support into their mental health strategies, employers can significantly enhance the well-being of their employees, increase productivity, and lower overall healthcare spend.
This move not only supports individuals dealing with the dual pressures of work and family care but also lays the foundation for a more resilient, productive, and engaged workforce. Such a holistic approach to employee wellness is not just beneficial; it’s essential for fostering a supportive and sustainable work environment.