Since the beginning of the pandemic, organizations have been forthcoming with multiple offers that help employees with mental health. Although 65% of employers say that they support mental health, only 51% of employees agree.
Why are people experiencing so little help from these offerings, and what can organizations do?
Stigma Prevents Use of Offerings
Stigma in mental health runs deeply within organizations. But it doesn’t just refer to the labels and baggage that comes with facing psychological challenges. Stigma is also associated with archaic laws and approaches, as well as biases in funding that show up in an organization’s policies.
For example, many organizations have a knee-jerk request for published peer-reviewed findings, yet the former editors of leading medical journals have talked extensively about why they don’t believe much of what is published. It’s not that all science is wrong, but that science offers a starting point and is not where you should end. Also, funds are often allocated without attention to the specific research needs.
Actions: Organizations could have a budget for in-house studies so that they don’t assume that the sterile environment of the laboratory translates into the real world. Ideally, organizations should bridge the laboratory and the real world by funding experiments that relate to their own companies.
Also, the chief human resources officer (CHRO) should have a direct relationship with the chief financial officer (CFO) so that finances and human needs are continuously assessed. Are the interventions helping absenteeism, presenteeism or the agility that is so needed in this new and very different world?
If the organization can show the connection between business performance and mental health, this may help to shift the practice away from theory to impact on the bottom line.
Lack of Personalization Assumes People Are Not Unique
The most well-controlled clinical trials tell us very little about what will work for specific people. To know the latter, individuals need to know what is best for them. And machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence can help organizations match interventions to people so that they save money and time by matching people to what works for them as individuals.
Actions: Do not set up any interventions without ML to support personalized recommendations. ML is not a luxury or an add-on. It can save money on monthly subscriptions, target individuals more effectively and help organizations course correct.
Incentives Should Be Material and Have Impact
By our very nature, we are not inclined to help ourselves even when the solutions are staring us in the face. It’s not that people are simply stubborn. Sometimes, they are too exhausted to care, and especially now, with the degree of neuroinflammation due to social isolation, people may be too fatigued to care.
Actions: You can address this lack of motivation by tying health-related benefits to finances, the way that Discovery Vitality or Ness are doing this. By establishing a behavioral banking system they encourage use of healthy offerings by integrating financial rewards. If organizations provide incentives at this level, they will likely see a big shift in use of their offerings.
Having an offering is one thing. But if you integrate conversations about organization-based research, personalization and cross-domain incentives, you will likely see significant differences in how people use and benefit from what you are offering.