Consistent with a recent CDC report, fewer caregivers report their health status as excellent or very good and a greater proportion report being in fair or poor health. And according to a recent report from the Northeast Business Group on Health, employers report caregivers abandoning self-care.
Leaders cannot think of caregiver benefits as a cost center with no measurable ROI. Look at the big picture. Providing meaningful benefits impacts the health of your employees and the health care costs of the organization.
Validating Savage’s prediction, a survey from the Northeast Business Group on Health (NEBGH) found that 28% of employers who weren’t previously offering paid caregiver leave are considering doing so in 2021/2022.
The survey also found that caregiving and implementing flexible work arrangements were “at the top of benefit managers’ caregiving wish lists.”
Flexibility goes hand in hand with caregiving benefits by helping women stay in the workforce, instead of sacrificing their careers to start a family. According to a recent LinkedIn poll, more than a third of working mothers who went back to work after having kids agreed that they struggled to get hired, and 61% said it was challenging to re-enter the workforce, demonstrating just how incompatible with caregiving it is.
Employers surveyed by the Northeast Business Group on Health in late 2019 and early 2020 said they were increasingly prioritizing caregiving benefits, with 78% saying that caregiving would be an increasingly important issue over the next five years. Some employers have responded to the pandemic with new offerings targeted to caregivers, including Verizon and online education company Chegg, which announced in April that it would reward a childcare reimbursement of $500 per family for parents struggling to balance work and life.
For employers looking to add digital resources to their mental health strategy, the Northeast Business Group, working with One Mind PsyberGuide, has created a new resource, “Digital Tools and Solutions for Mental Health.” The guide includes more than two dozen digital health resources employers can employ to meet the needs of their workforce, wherever they’re currently working.
“Digital technologies have the potential to revolutionize treatment for mental health conditions,” said Dr. Mark Cunningham-Hill, Medical Director at NEBGH. “We developed this resource guide to arm employers with the information they need to make the right decision for their organization and employees. With the country now in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic, the value of these tools that provide virtual solutions has increased exponentially.”
The new tool from NEBGH and One Mind PsyberGuide helps employers sort through dozens of digital mental health solutions to choose which works best for them.
Digital technologies have the potential to revolutionize treatment for mental health conditions, says Dr. Mark Cunningham-Hill, medical director at NEBGH. But with so many solutions and tools in the marketplace, it’s hard for employers to know which technology is best for them and their employees. “We developed this resource guide to arm employers with the information they need to make the right decision for their organization and employees,” he says. “With the country now in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic, the value of these tools that provide virtual solutions has increased exponentially.”
Based on the 2019/2020 Caregiving and the Workplace: Employer Benchmarking Survey, from the Northeast Business Group of Health and AARP, employers have a way to go in recognizing the needs of their caregiving employees.
Only 9% of employers surveyed for that study said caregiving was among their Top 5 priorities for employee health and benefit issues. And although 78% of firms said their workplace culture supports employees who are caregivers, only 58% of employees said they think their top management is supportive of caregiving policies.
"The challenges for employee caregivers have increased exponentially as a result of the risk for COVID-19 among older and vulnerable people, social distancing requirements, and 24/7 child care responsibilities," said Candice Sherman, CEO of the Northeast Business Group on Health (NEBGH), an employer-led coalition. "Employers are trying to increase support for caregiving employees by providing more backup help, flexible working hours and access to expert resources, and some are providing relief funds to help with expenses."
In late 2019 and early 2020, NEBGH and AARP surveyed benefit managers at 119 mostly large U.S. employers. The survey, a follow-up to one conducted in 2017, found that more employers now provide paid leave specifically for caregiving—23 percent of respondents do so, up from 11 percent in 2017.
But while 61 percent of benefit managers said caregiving is a top priority for them, and 45 percent believe they are on par with similar organizations in developing caregiving-friendly benefits, almost a quarter (22 percent) see themselves as below or well below average, "a clear sign there is much room for improvement," Sherman said.
The guide—released in partnership with the nonprofit website One Mind PsyberGuide—comes as the demand for mental health services reaches unprecedented levels during the Covid-19 crisis.
The guide outlines the return on investment—between $2 and $4 for every dollar spent on mental health—as well as the advantages and challenges of offering virtual services. It also evaluates two dozen mental health digital solutions, including through what conditions they target, what types of interventions they offer and whether they have participated in published studies that evaluate their results.
Employers also should determine what objectives they're looking to achieve by offering virtual mental health solutions as well as how they plan to effectively engage their employees.
"Employers are faced with a multitude of options when considering digital solutions for mental health," said Stephen Schueller, executive director of PsyberGuide, in a statement. "This often leads to pitch fatigue; employers are approached by various companies and may not know what else is out there and what might be able to meet their needs."
Employers tend to find that multiple providers and vendors approach them selling mental health apps, said Cunningham-Hill. "They struggle to find out which one is the best one."
Funding for the guide was provided by the Bowman Family Foundation, Aetna and Johnson & Johnson. —Jennifer Henderson
Guide Helps Employers Compare Mental Health Apps
A new guide, Digital Tools and Solutions for Mental Health, developed by the Northeast Business Group on Health (NEBGH) and One Mind PsyberGuide, provides HR and benefits leaders with information to navigate through the maze of mental health apps.
"Digital technologies have the potential to revolutionize treatment for mental health conditions," said Mark Cunningham-Hill, medical director at NEBGH, an employer-led coalition. "These solutions can provide valuable new services that make mental health support more accessible and reduce barriers due to stigma."
He added, "With the country now in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic, the value of these tools that provide virtual solutions has increased exponentially."
The guide lists two dozen mental health apps and their key features, including what conditions each tool targets (such as stress, depression, anxiety) and the types of intervention it offers (such as coaching, mindfulness meditation, clinical therapy).
It has a checklist of key considerations for employers when evaluating and selecting a digital mental health solution, and features case studies of four major employers that have been using mental health apps for their employees.
The Northeast Business Group on Health has received a $150,000 grant from the New York Community Trust to help improve access to behavioral health care for people in the city, Long Island and Westchester County with employer-sponsored insurance.
The funding is for the first two years of the business group's participation in the new Path Forward for Mental Health and Substance initiative.
Late last year the group was tapped to lead one of the initiative's eight regional employer stakeholder engagement teams. The goal is to leverage the influence of employer and other health care purchaser members to work with health plans, hospital systems and stakeholders to better address behavioral health care.
The grant will support surveying members to identify access and payment challenges as well as collecting studies on cost and data and policy information to support employers in health plan negotiations, among other efforts, the business group said.
Though the Path Forward initiative was started before the Covid-19 pandemic, it's now even more relevant.
"The mental health challenges that all of us face are more critical than ever, and they are not going to come to an end if and when this crisis comes to an end," said Candice Sherman, CEO of the business group. "There will be emotional fallout."
Telehealth, which has rapidly increased in the past two months, was already one of the initiative's five areas of focus.
"This Covid-19 crisis has really opened the door to a much more extensive use of telehealth for mental health and substance-use disorders," Sherman said. "One of the questions that we would like to pursue is how we can engage stakeholders to really make telehealth part of the new normal." —J.H.