Worker Health Is Suffering. Benefits Go Unused. 5 Ways To Maximize Your Benefits


There is a disconnect between how employees feel about their mental and physical health and how employers think their staff is feeling. Almost 75% of employees felt their mental and physical health worsened or stayed the same year-over-year. However, 60% of HR leaders thought their workforce health improved.

There is also a disconnect between employee needs and how much they’re tapping company benefits to fill those needs. 64% of employees are struggling with their mental health. However, only 19% used their company’s mental health benefits.

These findings are from The State of Workplace Health, a survey of 800 HR leaders and 800 employees in the US, conducted by research agency, Workplace Intelligence and membership-based primary care practice, One Medical. There are real costs to companies when employees suffer. 91% of employees who report mental health concerns also report they’re less productive, with 45% reporting a productivity loss of more than 5 hours a week.

According to The State of Workplace Health survey, 48% of employer respondents are adding solutions for mental and behavioral health. 50% are adding solutions for care navigation and 53% for telemedicine. In addition, employers are prioritizing their communication efforts so employees know what’s available. This additional support from employers should be welcome since over half (55%) of employee respondents to the survey said they felt overwhelmed when navigating the healthcare system.

If you’re in that majority of employees who is struggling with mental health issues but overwhelmed by your company benefits process, here are five ways to get the support you need:

1 – Tap the healthcare providers you already know

You may not have a mental health specialist in your existing contact list, but you already have a primary care provider. In The State of Workplace Health survey, 55% of employees and 66% of HR leaders didn’t fully realize how primary care providers can support mental health issues. Don’t assume that a doctor you already know can’t help because they’re a generalist or of a different specialty. They may still have relevant knowledge or at least referrals.

2 – Ask friends for referrals

It can take time and effort to navigate your insurance directory for what is covered and who offers that service. If you have friends who have dealt or are dealing with similar issues, they may already have some information and names to get you started. You’ll still have to confirm any referrals you get are covered by your company insurance, but the jumpstart might be enough to get you going on the process, rather than procrastinate on doing anything for yet another day.

3 – Tap HR friends to translate benefits-speak

Even if you’re brave enough to dive into the healthcare policy information, there may be insurance terms you don’t understand. A friend in HR – doesn’t even have to be at your specific employer – can help translate the benefits-speak into layperson English. If you don’t already have HR friends, hopefully this lights a fire to make some new friends – HR contacts are one of the top 10 people you want to have in your network.

4 – Invest time during the workday to research solutions

The State of Workplace Health survey found that mental health concerns can eat up as much as five hours of productivity each week. Investing a few hours to figure out how to tackle these concerns on a more permanent basis will come back in future productivity. Don’t wait for more personal free time to work on this issue (you know the time will never come!). Don’t feel guilty about dedicating some of your workday for healthcare. Instead, block out time on your calendar, and know it’s an investment in your future productivity. (You should dedicate some of your workweek to projects outside your immediate job anyway to account for future advancement and build a solid career foundation.)

5 – Ask your manager for the time and flexibility you need

Even when you identify resources to help you, you’ll still need time to see those specialists, do whatever follow-up care is recommended and, of course, submit all the benefits paperwork. This requires time, as well as the flexibility in your schedule to fit your providers’ scbedules. If you have a supportive manager, the ask might be easy – though you still want to be organized about what exactly you need (e.g., which days off). If you don’t have a supportive manager, your ask may be more like a negotiation, where you need to prepare to respond to their objections and concerns, as well as practice standing your ground. Knowing how to push back on a difficult manager is a good skill to develop anyway. You don’t want an unsupportive manager to derail your career advancement, day-to-day happiness or, in this case, much-need healthcare.

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