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Five tips to help employers boost their focus on mental well-being

PayFlex Engage     Five tips to help employers boost their focus on mental well-being


Understanding mental well-being and why it matters 

Successful employees are the engine that powers a successful business. So it only makes sense for organizations to want to offer support and resources to enable employees to do their best work. This means proactively supporting health and well-being, and in today’s workplace climate, a purposeful focus on mental well-being is becoming increasingly important.

It’s important to first understand what good mental well-being is, why it’s important and what it means to your employees.

With this knowledge, you can offer the right solutions to help them connect to the support they may need to succeed.     



Mental well-being defined 

Mental well-being encompasses more than just how someone feels. It includes their emotional, psychological and social well-being, and affects how one thinks and acts. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, mental well-being also helps determine how one handles stress, relates to others and makes choices. It is important at every stage of life, from childhood through adulthood.1

Poor mental well-being can negatively affect physical health, relationships and the fulfillment of goals, which can hinder employees’ capabilities, potential and success. Conversely, good mental well-being can help employees thrive, enabling them to feel their best, create and maintain good relationships with coworkers and customers and reach their full potential. Which is why it’s important for employers to pay attention to their employees’ mental health to ensure they’re on the best path toward success.



The invisible problem affecting business success 

Mental health issues, however, aren’t always as easy to identify as, say, physical health issues. Symptoms of depression or anxiety, for example, aren’t visible to the naked eye. And for many, they aren’t easy to talk about or bring attention to — especially in the workplace. Only 32% of baby boomers are comfortable talking about their mental health, and while 62% of millennials say they’re comfortable discussing their mental health issues, 38% aren’t.2 So despite the negative consequences poor employee mental well-being can have on a business, such as lower productivity rates, problems with retention and higher health care costs, it can be a problem that’s easily missed.3 Which is why it’s important for employers to have a strong focus on improving their employees’ mental well-being at all times, so their workforces have constant access to support if and when they need it.    



Strategies to offer support in the workplace

Employers have a lot to think about when it comes to their business and employees, so keeping mental well-being top of mind takes a strategic approach. Here are five tips to help.



1. Lean on managers to keep a pulse on employees’ needs

While many employees may not be keen on discussing mental well-being in the workplace, there are tactful ways for organizations to aim to gain a better understanding of their employees’ mental well-being needs. Managers work closely and often with their employees and may be able to pick up on signs that an employee is struggling with their mental health — such as not meeting deadlines, having trouble focusing and expressing sudden changes in mood.4

If an employee is seemingly struggling, managers can ask an open-ended question, such as, “Is everything OK?” or, “How are you feeling?” as a way to delicately approach the topic.5 Asking these questions can signal to an employee that their employer cares about them and wants to support them, and may help them feel comfortable opening up about their feelings.

If signs of poor mental well-being aren’t present, managers should still check in with their employees frequently to provide opportunities for discussion and demonstrate that they are paying attention to their mental health needs.



2. Seek continuous feedback 

Mental well-being is constantly changing; it’s fluid. Life events, short-term stressors and sudden changes in one’s health or home life can all have immediate effect on mental well-being. That’s why it’s important to constantly seek feedback from your employees. Moreover, employers should also look to external sources, such as current mental well-being studies, surveys and data to stay informed about relevant mental well-being trends. This can help employers understand potential workforce needs and provide the right support.



3. Listen and show compassion to help destigmatize mental health 

Regardless of which method you use to gain an understanding of your employees’ mental well-being, how you interpret and respond to that information is critical to offering optimal support. During conversations, it’s important for employers and/or managers to attentively listen to get an accurate understanding of how their teams are feeling, why they may be feeling that way and the kind of support they’re looking for.

Moreover, reserving judgment and showing compassion are vital to helping remove the stigma around mental health. This stigma is often what keeps employees and their families from seeking mental health support, and responding with compassion and care can help create a culture of well-being at your company, where employees feel comfortable discussing their needs and can gain access to the right resources, helping them thrive and contribute to your business’s success. In fact, when mental health in the workplace is destigmatized and employees take action to seek mental health support, businesses can see lower total medical costs, increased productivity, lower absenteeism and decreased disability costs.6



4. Give your benefits design a once-over 

One of the most effective ways employers can support their employees’ mental health and well-being is by providing the right benefits offering. Consider your current benefits package. Does it include medical and behavioral health benefits that could help your employees access and afford mental health care? Do you offer an employee assistance program (EAP) or other wellness programs to provide employees and their families with resources and support?

If you do offer these benefits, check to see if any adjustments need to be made based on your employees’ feedback. For example, if employees are experiencing heightened stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic, programs that provide access to short-term counseling, virtual care and financial services or family services could be helpful.



5. Use employee feedback to offer effective benefits solutions 

When you seek continuous feedback from your employees on their mental health and well-being, you gain valuable insight as to the kind of the support they need. And because your employees’ needs are constantly changing, it’s important to offer benefits that can support their mental well-being now and in the future. Building an innovative plan design that includes targeted solutions can help you provide that ongoing support.

A PayFlex Specialized Health Reimbursement ArrangementTM for mental well-being (Specialized HRA), for example, is a targeted solution that can offer continuous support for your employees. A Specialized HRA for mental well-being can help break down the barriers that may be preventing your employees from getting the professional help they need, such as access to care and affordability. It’s an employer-funded (pre-tax) account, and your employees can use these funds to help pay for copays, deductibles and out-of-pocket costs for in- and out-of-network care. With a Specialized HRA, certain behavioral health expenses and providers are reimbursable, such as applied behavioral analysis treatments and services from professionals like clinical social workers and family therapists. Employees also get a PayFlex debit card they can use to pay for behavioral health expenses.



We’re here to help 

Whether an employee needs access to mental health support now or a few months down the line, targeted solutions like a Specialized HRA can help your workforce feel supported day in and day out.

If you determine that your organization needs more mental well-being support, PayFlex can help.  

Learn more about health care innovation and thought starters.

Connect with us on PayFlex Engage



1. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. What is mental health? May 28, 2020. Available at: Accessed August 5, 2021.

2. Agovino T. Mental illness and the workplace. The Society for Human Resource Management. August 3, 2019. Available at: Accessed August 5, 2021.

3. Rawe J. Workplace mental health: 5 ways to support employee wellness. Available at: Accessed August 5, 2021.

4. Sime C. The cost of ignoring mental health in the workplace. April 17, 2019. Available at: Accessed August 5, 2021.

5. Balian M. Discussing mental health: Best practices for managers and employees. Justworks. April 15, 2020. Available at: Accessed August 5, 2021.

6. McLean Hospital. What employers need to know about mental health in the workplace. September 1, 2020. Available at: Accessed August 18, 2021.


This material does not contain legal or tax advice. You should contact your legal counsel or tax advisor if you have any questions or need additional information. PayFlex does not provide any payment or service in violation of any United States economic or trade sanctions. For more information about PayFlex, go to

HRAs are currently not available to HMO members in Illinois. 

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