Why Corporate Wellness Programs Need to Address Mental Health First

A recent study came out that rocked the world of corporate wellness programs. It questioned their return on investment as it relates to employee health spending and outcomes as well as overall productivity in the workplace. The silver lining to this 18-month study is that employee behavioral health is an increasingly critical component to running more effective wellness programs. Moreover, the time for employers to act is now: if appropriate actions aren’t taken soon, it is estimated that by 2020 depression will become the leading cause of workplace disability. Fortunately, by addressing mental and emotional well-being first, employers can increase employee engagement and more efficiently influence meaningful behavioral change to increase ROI in corporate wellness solutions. In fact, a 2017 study by Deloitte found that employers who invested in mental health on average garnered an ROI of 4.2 to 1.


Research suggests that addressing mental health positively affects measures such as employee absenteeism, productivity and financial outcomes. Not only that, but evidence shows that addressing behavioral health through well-proven mental health interventions such as motivational interviewing and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) leads to behavioral changes pertinent to better health outcomes. If these evidence-based therapies have a hand in creating better health outcomes, it is easy to see why employers who focus on mental health benefit from greater ROI in their wellness programs. “Employers want their people to be at their best, and investing in their mental health and wellbeing is key to achieving just that,” said Mike Thompson, President and CEO of The National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions.


While some of these efforts require the specialization of a trained psychology professional, increasingly, digital tools can help employees engage in CBT and other activities to rely less on access to skilled medical or clinical intervention. This reduces spending on health services that in many instances are not reimbursable through current health insurance plans. And as the result of recent innovations in digital wellness initiatives, employers are now able to see longitudinal, population-level insights into the health of their employees to proactively offer targeted, data-driven outreach and support to those who need it.


The current imperative for corporate wellness as it relates to employee behavioral health is the development of programs that incorporate evidence-based treatments that deliver sizable behavioral change at affordable costs to maximize ROI. This can mean finding relevant digital solutions to help give employers the insight they need to make critical decisions in how to drive employee engagement and overall health.  Companies must move beyond the initial trial and error phase of corporate wellness to offer data-driven, medically sound solutions tested and proven to spark behavioral change in employees to lead to better well-being in the workplace.


About the authors:

John Geiger has held a number of senior marketing and customer facing roles in healthcare while supporting Fortune 100 companies. John ran Accolade’s entire Customer Success function after leading the marketing function for the company.


Chris Molaro is the CEO and co-founder of NeuroFlow, a digital health technology and analytics company. Chris is a former U.S. Army Captain and earned his MBA at the University of Pennsylvania where he also spent time as digital health consultant at Mckinsey.


NeuroFlow Testimonial by Dr. Alissa Silverman


(Header image credit: Career Employer)

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