Curating the week in wellness Feb. 7-11, 2022

Five workplace strategies that assists employees with mental health issues. How to build an ‘inclusive culture’ for LGBTQ+ employees.

By Kacey Larsen      
Mental health and LGBTQ benefits that work

Hello, wellness pros!

The 2022 Winter Olympics have started in Tokyo and are making headlines for the good and bad. But, we are here with a collection of thought-provoking articles, tips and takeaways for the week.  

Please get in touch with any ideas, suggestions or feedback on how we can serve you better or cover topics that are top-of-mind at your organization. Email: kaceyl@ragan.com.


1. Five strategies employers can adopt for employee mental health support.

Patricia L. Haynes, associate professor of health promotion sciences with the University of Arizona, researches the negative effects of stress on health and sleep and works with local firefighters as a clinical psychologist. This experience is the basis for her opinion that employees are “better able to navigate mental health issues when employers have a plan in place.”

In a piece for The Conversation, Haynes details five strategies that can assist with developing that plan:

  • Create clear workplace policies for employees and managers that cover mental health-related disruptive behaviors that impact an individual’s capability to do their job, evaluation and treatment requirements if needed and conditions allowing for a return to work.
  • Partner with mental health providers—a key mitigation strategy here is empowering managers and colleagues to refer fellow employees to those providers or other resources if observing that help may be needed.
  • Workplace wellness programs that support resiliency and teach stress management skills are meaningful, but it is important to include workers, when possible, in decisions about program adoption to increase participation and offer managerial training that can also aid in program promotion.
  • While employers can help fight mental health stigma by discussing the topic more readily and increasing mental health literacy, organizations could train dedicated employees to serve as advocates for mental health and wellness services and assist colleagues as needed and/or develop programs where employees hear people with mental illness describe their experiences.
  • Nurturing social support can buffer the impact of stress and inspire “collective efficacy,” which improves group performance and assists with trauma recovery.

2. Move beyond “inclusive culture” for LGBTQ+ workers.

The Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) Best Place to work for LGBTQ+ Equality 2022 recognizes 842 businesses that earned a 100% rating by meeting all the criteria. Reporting by HR Dive digs into what that criteria is:

“The criteria extends beyond ‘an inclusive culture’ and corporate social responsibility to nondiscrimination policies across business entities and equitable benefits for LGBTQ workers and their families. More specifically, HRC graded companies on whether they were driving equality in LGBTQ family formation, were raising the standards for trans-inclusive healthcare by expanding the mandatory service and treatment options, had solidified gender transition guidelines and cultivated best practices for ‘intersectional examination of workplace inequality’ via training and data collection.” 

Since 2002, when HRC’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI) survey was first conducted, several companies in the modern-day Fortune 500 have a history of scoring 100%: American Airlines, Apple, Chase, JPMorgan, Nike and Xerox. This consistent ranking is especially impressive considering that 20 years ago only 3% of Fortune 500 companies outlined gender identity protections in their nondiscrimination policies. (Today, that is up to 91% of Fortune 500 companies.)

Additional criteria introduced in 2012 by HRC necessitated addressing trans health care exclusion, and today 67% of the CEI-rated Fortune 500 companies offer trans health care.

In a press release, Joni Madison, interim president of HRC, says, “By using the CEI criteria as a guide, businesses can help ensure their existing policy and benefits infrastructure is inclusive of LGBTQ workers and their families.” 

3. Setting clear expectations can help the handling of difficult work situations.

Difficult discussions are neither fun nor easy, and this moment of remote and hybrid work for many has added layers of complication. In a piece for EBN, Gilles Bertaux, CEO of Livestorm, recommends leaders develop a clearer set of expectations than existed for in-person work.

He argues, “Whether this is for a performance review, a promotion or disciplinary action, expectations need to be formalized and explicitly communicated to all employees, even more clearly than if you were in a physical office.”

Bertaux details how to handle a few specific difficult situations: Terminations and layoffs, bullying and harassment, and cybersecurity.

“Remote work certainly is providing HR with challenges, but it can also be a good time to button up your firm’s policies and protocols around promotions, work-life balance and disciplinary procedures and get stronger on communications around expectations,” he says. “Ideally, you can find the best way to support your employees online, give them great paths for advancement and some independence while staying connected with better communication and guidance.”  

4. Telehealth remains a work in progress.

The COVID-19 pandemic had a massive impact on the growth and acceptance of telehealth, with virtual health care representing 13% of all private insurers’ health claims in the U.S. in April 2020. But by October 2021, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports a decline in telehealth claims to just 4.1% of all health claims. So, what does the telehealth industry need to sustain and continue to grow?

Broader adoption is a good place to start, says SHRM: “A 2021 study by the Rand Corp. found that the growth in telehealth during the pandemic was driven by adults with higher incomes, mostly in metropolitan areas. Telehealth use for children and lower-income adults lagged by comparison.”

Additionally, access to telehealth services has been stymied by the lapse of pandemic-related relief. Lack of care coordination and overprescribed antibiotics are both areas where telehealth services are in need of improvement. On the positive side, it is worth noting that care monitoring for chronic conditions is a big area of potential for telehealth.

“We need to get away from the idea of provider visits only occurring three or four times a year,” says Wei-Li Shao, president of Omada Health in San Francisco. “It is care in between office visits that can move the needle toward better outcomes.”

5. Americans feeling “not too happy.”

As the U.S. approaches fast approaches its third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, new data from the General Society Survey—an ongoing study from NORC at the University of Chicago—found the percentage of Americans feeling “very happy” at 19% in 2021, a significant decrease from 32% in 2018. Further along the feelings spectrum, Americans feeling “not too happy” increased from 13% in 2018 to 24% in 2021.

Insider examines this see-saw that life seems to be on for most people. For example, wages are on the rise at the fastest rate since 1983, but inflation is lingering at its highest level since 1982.

So, how to counter this “not too happy” moment—at least at work? Beverly Jones, a Washington, D.C.-based executive career coach and author, spoke with Yahoo News about finding greater happiness at work. Here are her takeaways:

  • Put yourself in touch with why you work.
  • Think like an entrepreneur by taking responsibility, trying new things and giving yourself permission to fail.
  • Give yourself the same advice you’d give a friend who is capable but needs some support.
  • Take breaks and prioritize them by putting them on your calendar with the mindset you are making “appointments” with yourself.
  • Learning can break you out of a rut and provide opportunities for new connections and ideas.