Emerging Technology Offers Ways to Tackle Employees’ Mental Health Challenges

As offices started to have employees return from COVID-19 shutdowns, a new cloud of uncertainty formed with the surge of the delta variant of the coronavirus. As the pandemic continues, stress and confusion hover over many workers’ heads.

The reason? The lasting effects the past 18 months had on people’s mental health are lingering and do not appear to be going away any time soon. Simply postponing the return to the office until 2022, as some employers have done, will not suffice to improve employees’ mental well-being.

Dealing with a year and a half of forced isolation, remote work for some jobs and the loss of physical connections to loved ones has left people trying to overcome the psychological impact of the pandemic as they strive to move forward in a world that has changed significantly. As people head back to work and school, they are faced with a new challenge of readapting to social environments. That challenge is causing additional anxiety.

The future of health management encompasses helping people push through possibly overwhelming feelings of loneliness and self-doubt. For instance, survey results reported in the Harvard Business Review in February 2021 revealed 62 percent of young people feel lonely frequently or “almost all the time.” Findings such as these are evidence of employers’ vital need to offer programs that help employees deal with the changes in their mental health brought about by the pandemic.

Supporting employees’ mental well-being is especially important in the public sector. Individuals who serve their communities need to maintain optimal mental health to successfully perform their critically important jobs. And, of course, many people look to their employer to offer solutions for tackling problems that can arise from doing one’s job, such as anxiety, depression, loneliness and isolation.

Thankfully, there are valuable solutions for employers that want to incorporate virtual and in-person mental health services in their benefits plans so employees can get the help they need.

More Than an App Is Needed

Employers that offer holistic health management solutions should find themselves more able to address mental health concerns among employees. Taking this approach allows an employer to provide more treatment options for employees of all ages and demographics. Short of medical care, employers should also ensure they have ways to provide referrals to programs designed to alleviate loneliness and isolation.

Emerging tech platforms are particularly useful for finding online and local clubs and activities. Such tools also often steer users to providers and services that are covered by the user’s health plan, be that an employer-sponsored, ACA marketplace, Medicare or Medicaid plan. That function will make a platform welcome for benefits managers in the public sector because it relieves some administrative burdens. A full-service health care management platform will also streamline claims processing, compliance, eligibility verification and vendor management.

To give a more-detailed description, an advanced health management platform will help ensure employees receive the care they need by

  • Providing employees with quality provider options to meet their unique personal health care needs;
  • Helping employees enroll in and take advantage of physical and mental health programs in a holistic manner; and
  • Facilitating outreach and engagement on both critical health care and wellness programs, thereby helping employees stay on a path to total health.

On the HR side, an advanced health management platform

  • Handles vendor management, which saves HR teams countless amounts of time and money;
  • Records data and provides reports on health care and wellness program usage; and
  • Aggregates data on health outcomes for plan and program participants.

The best health management platforms make it possible to take care of the whole person by connecting employees with physical and mental health care services. As the COVID-19 pandemic persists, a platform will be most useful if it provides access to help with the following conditions:

  • Loneliness and Isolation: Effective solutions offer an assortment of virtual and in-person classes and peer groups that exist to motivate patients to make social connections.
  • Anxiety and Depression: Specific programs are now available to address post-pandemic anxiety and depression via cognitive behavioral therapy to promote mindfulness. Employees should also be able to access therapeutic interventions for issues related to anxiety and depression, such as sleep disorders and substance abuse.
  • Overweight and Obesity: Staying indoors and getting little exercise while having limited access to healthy food options during the pandemic caused many people’s weight to fluctuate. An effective weight management program will focus on helping patients lose weight by committing to lifestyle changes such as increasing activities that have the potential to relieve depression, anxiety and stress. Weight loss coaches are typically available to meet with patients virtually and in person.

To sum up, the organization and its employees will benefit from the implementation of a health management platform that is robust and has the capacity to evolve as users’ needs change. Supplying workers with quality choices to address their specific needs, including psychological ones, is critical to supporting their overall health. The best way to move forward from the pandemic is to pinpoint needs and concerns in the interest of helping each other.

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