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Is Your Employer Supportive of Your Mental Health?

The pandemic has focused new attention on how we cope with life and work. Blue Shield of California is supporting its employees with additional time off and other expanded resources

Editor's note: This article was first featured on Blue Shield of California's site for brokers, employers, and plan sponsors. It has been adapted for the News Center.

The far-reaching and devastating effects of COVID-19 paired with a year of social unrest put mental health into the public spotlight. With more than a year to focus on mental health we can now gather collective learnings – applied in and outside the workplace – while looking ahead to what’s in store.


What we’ve learned and confirmed during COVID-19

In a prescient article published in November 2019, Dr. Nidal Moukaddam of Baylor University explained how fear and anxiety caused by pandemics can cause or worsen mental health issues. Dr. Moukaddam also wrote this was “not, however, a well-studied area.”

With the pandemic quickly confirming the negative relation between large-scale disease outbreaks and mental health, employers recognized the importance of mental health services for their employees. We’ve seen indications of the positive effects of these services (with a boost from the holiday break) in early 2021. The Mental Health Index: Worker Edition reported a decline in depression and an increase in sustained attention. This is a welcome improvement, though there is more work ahead.

What’s to come

Another lesson from the last year: making predictions during a pandemic is tricky. While we don’t have all the answers for what the future holds, attention to mental and physical wellness in the workplace is very likely here to stay. Here are a few indications from experts as we look ahead:

“Nearly all employers will offer telehealth services for minor, acute services while 91% will offer telemental health, and that could grow to 96% by 2023,” according to Business Health Group’s annual survey. 

 “Employers must remain focused on incorporating innovative mental health programs with visible leadership involvement to support the well-being of their workforce. One size does not fit all, especially when it comes to brain health,” said Bryan Robinson, Ph.D., a psychotherapist and professor who studies the mental health in the workplace at University of North Carolina, Charlotte.

“Half of (employer survey) respondents (50%) will conduct anti-stigma campaigns in 2021,” according to Business Health Group. 

“In 2021, employers will [work] to de-stigmatize mental health by expanding mental health benefits, creating days where they shut the entire company down for a day to offer 'a collective mental health day' to build awareness across the workforce about this critical issue,” wrote Brian Kropp, in the Harvard Business Review.

How we’re helping

Blue Shield of California has given employees a Health Day Off (eight hours of paid time off) pre-COVID-19 and we’ve doubled the allotment in 2021 In addition, we recently announced that we will end the workday at 2 p.m. on Fridays to give our employees a chance to start the weekend early, rest, and refuel.

In addition, Mary O'Hara, executive vice president, People and Engagement at Blue Shield, announced additional initiatives including daily quiet hours, paid time off for the week of Thanksgiving, an extension of the plan's work-from-home policy until March 2022, and more.

These benefits add to our existing suite of tools for our employees and members. Our Wellvolution platform offers members personalized support and tools to help them take control of their health and wellbeing, including mental health and tobacco-cessation programs. Additionally, we support youth-specific mental health resources through BlueSky.