How to make the business case for employee well-being programs

HR plays a role in supporting holistic well-being support to employees.

By Michelle Johnson      
Are you making an adequate business case for well-being programs at work?

Are your employees stressed? They’re not alone. Eighty-four percent of employees have experienced at least one mental health challenge this year.

Stress is normal, whether it’s related to work, life or balancing both. But ongoing high stress can have serious consequences that underscore the business case for effective well-being support.

Why support for employee well-being matters

Organizational and HR leaders across industries are realizing that protecting and supporting employee well-being is a people priority — and also a business one, especially since:

What role does HR play?

Providing effective support for whole-person health can be the difference in protecting people and the business. Wellness programs benefit your full workforce, even your healthy employees.

HR can lead the efforts by:  

  • Focusing on education and reducing the stigma around seeking care
  • Creating a company culture that prioritizes employee well-being
  • Removing barriers to care by providing employees with the benefits they need

Education: A Foundation to Culture

A good first step to creating a well-being-focused culture is education. It’s important for everyone, but especially those who are managing people, to understand that mental health can be full of ups and downs. You can explain well-being and mental health as falling along a continuum from excelling to crisis mode, often in response to life stressors and circumstances.

Employees may be:

  • Healthy overall but looking to proactively boost well-being and stress management
  • Reacting to life or situational stressors in ways that may compromise healthy function and performance
  • Struggling with debilitating stress, burnout or mental distress from anxiety or depression
  • In crisis from mental illness or a substance use disorder

Employees who can cope in healthy ways with workplace stress and other demands in life are likely to be healthier, happier and more productive. For instance, consider that a working mother with two young kids and a demanding role may simply need some work-life balance support from a life coach.

The specifics of what individual employees need for optimal well-being may differ, but employers can provide confidential, effective resources.

Removing barriers

As you look at the resources your employer is providing, it’s important to ensure that you are helping employees overcome the barriers to seeking care. Among the biggest barriers is financial guidance and how to get help with costs.

Primary healthcare insurance plans often don’t include mental health coverage, which can cause financial strain. HR leaders should evaluate the primary healthcare plan to identify what it covers and whether high deductibles, high out-of-network costs for behavioral care, and limits to coverage for provider visits and prescriptions may pose barriers to effective care.

A popular resource, employee assistance programs (EAPs), may offer some resources but are often too limiting and may not be perceived as confidential.

Where to start

In addition to educating management and taking steps from a cultural perspective, HR leaders must make sure the benefits being offered align with the narrative. That includes ensuring:

  • Health benefits are in place for mental health and well-being
    • Management should be well versed in recommending these benefits to decrease the stigma associated with seeking treatment.
  • Employees have guidance and access to the resources they need, whether that’s in-the-moment support, ongoing coaching or more in-depth counseling  
  • Employees have proactive ways to deal with stress in healthy ways, such as using wellness treatments

Cobbling together different solutions can be frustrating as well as time-consuming, and at the end of the day, still may not get the job done. Look for an all-in-one solution that combines coverage and access to support that can help you protect both your people and your business.

Michelle Johnson is the vice president of marketing and communications at ArmadaCare.