Employee Mental Health: The Most Important Fringe Benefit of 2021

Employee Moral and Mental Health

At the turn of the decade, the conversation around “mental health at work” in businesses around Poughkeepsie, NY, and nationwide was increasingly gaining traction. The year of the pandemic (2020) proved its point. Zoom fatigue and burnout are buzzwords of this year, highlighting mental health support as the most practical employee fringe benefit of 2021.

What are fringe benefits? They are any benefits other than the employee’s normal salary or wages that possess monetary value. Traditional fringe benefits include retirement plans, healthcare, paid time off, life insurance, disability, and tuition reimbursement. Modern fringe benefits include unlimited time off, wellness perks, flexible work options, paid parental leave, office additions, and more. Modern benefits can be far-reaching, encompassing the physical, mental, financial, educational, and environmental elements of an employee’s life.

The addition of creative amenities has boosted the dollar value of the average company benefits package. Companies support more areas of their employee’s well-being, and it is now common for benefits to make up a third of an employee’s total compensation. At the executive level, where more years of experience in the workforce brings life components such as families or complex medical needs, the benefits package is a key component for deciding employment.

If businesses did not include mental health support in their benefits package before, this is the year to consider adding them. Mental health benefits are a strategic recruiting play and highlight a company’s ability to offer current offerings amidst “new normal” circumstances. Cultivating a company culture remotely is hard enough. Employees feel appreciated and understood when the negative side-effects of remote work are supported. Some examples of mental health benefits are:

  • Premium health plans that maximize the in-network for mental health providers
  • Minimizing employee out-of-pocket costs with a company-funded health-savings fund or contribution
  • Bringing in 3rd party counselors for periodic seminars on mental health
  • Providing company-sponsored resources
  • Proving a resource lists for contacting mental health specialists
  • Creating a mental health program, training, or initiative
  • Building the mental health component into manager-training
  • (Virtual) meditation subscriptions
  • Couples therapy
  • Wellness partnerships with local facilities: gyms, yoga studios, massage clinics, etc.
  • Child and elder-care support

Ultimately, poor mental health is a condition that takes away from organizational productivity. Productivity loss is defined as loss that occurs when personnel is underperforming or unable to perform their duties while at work. Although the conversation around depression, anxiety, lack of focus, and brain fog is difficult to bring up, it’s easy to see how these underlying conditions can be work inhibitors if left unaddressed and unsupported. Productivity loss takes away from the bottom line. “Zoom fatigue” is the case example and rising phenomenon striking employees who are subject to back-to-back video calls and meetings. It is the unwanted side effect of remote work. Research shows that the cognitive load over a video call is much higher than in-person as the brain struggles to communicate, read, and send signals. Vocal and body language expression must be slightly exaggerated over a video call. People are more actively trying to ensure that a message has been accurately transferred. If you find yourself dreading and avoiding conference calls or feeling incredibly tense after a meeting, zoom fatigue may have set in.

Mental health benefits combat burnout. Employers known for providing practical and tangible benefits will build a reputation for taking care of their people. At SMART Staffing Group, Inc., we help businesses build a strategy around talent and staffing. We believe that addressing real human needs is the gold standard for a modern employee benefits package and serve the community through mutually fulfilling employer-employee matches. We are a Minority and Woman-Owned business serving the Hudson Valley region since 2014.