George and Partitions: The State of Psychological Well being within the Office| Staff Compensation Information

By Kimberly George and Mark Walls

Wednesday, May 26, 2021 | 0

Discussions about the effects of mental health and well-being in the workplace are frequent subjects of Out Front Ideas With Kimberly and Mark. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so we share our thoughts on the current state of mental health in the workplace.

Kimberly George

Even before the pandemic, performance managers were adjusting employee benefits to better equip employees and plan members with mental health resources. However, as home work continued and social isolation began, employers became more aware of the effects of mental health and well-being on productivity, absenteeism and performance.

We hope that programs launched during the pandemic with a greater focus on employee wellbeing continue to support improved access to health care and reduce the stigma surrounding mental health.

Employers used existing or newly introduced Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) to encourage peer interaction, open discussion, and shared problem-solving about issues affecting their personal and professional lives as a result of the pandemic.

Mark walls

Mark walls

At the time, the group collaborations focused on important issues with employees, such as success in home schooling, caring for a sick family member, loneliness and depression, challenges with the family and the exchange of positivity, to name just a few. Many found the sessions a great way to bring positivity and support into their lives and take a break from the hustle and bustle of work at home. As companies develop back-to-office and hybrid workforce models, ERGs continue to be a priority to ensure that anyone who wishes to attend can participate.

Access to medical care has long been a challenge for those seeking psychological care. Reimbursement rates, punctual appointments, and limited supplier options are some of the problems the industry is working to resolve. While the number of telemedicine visits used to triage smaller medical and follow-up appointments increased, teletherapy and telepsychiatry were only slowly being adopted. Fortunately, telemedicine saved many aspects of health care during the pandemic, and mental health care saw a boon.

Employers and network partners now offer several options for telemedicine and improved coordination between Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and online therapy platforms for psychiatric care. Telephone calls, video conferences and text messages are becoming an integral part of the therapist-patient relationship. With fewer social ties, this has brought success for many workers – and their families. Organizations now offer a variety of programs including adult, family, and youth counseling.

The Mental Health Center in the Workplace is an important resource for all employers. All work is focused on helping employers create a more supportive work environment and driving health policy forward in their organization. They created a mental health toolkit for Mental Health Awareness Month that includes topics such as building resilience in people and the organization, promoting self-care, and combating isolation and loneliness.

These programs (and others) can be easily incorporated into your corporate culture to reduce stigma, promote wellbeing, and create an environment where employees and leaders are cared for and thriving.

From the perspective of workers’ compensation claims, mental health has always been a complication lurking in the background. The industry tended to ignore the problem due to a combination of stigma and outright opposition. Claims in which the injured workers never fully recovered likely had a significant untreated psychological component.

Fortunately, that is changing. It is now widely accepted that all chronic pain has a significant psychological component and if you don’t address it, the cost of damage will rise and lead to inferior outcomes. Multidisciplinary pain management programs today spend as much time on mental health as they do on physical health.

The laws are also being changed to make it easier to prosecute mental injuries as part of employee compensation. More and more states allow “intellectual” claims, which are psychological injuries without physical injuries. In addition, one of the major legislative initiatives on labor compensation for several years has been the expansion of presumption of first aid legislation, which primarily focuses on post-traumatic stress.

In the past, the threshold for mental injury has been an “ordinary and extraordinary” experience. This threshold was used to deny very real traumatic situations that first responders encounter because the situations were “common” aspects of their work. Although these traumatic situations were to be expected, it is not common to react to serious accident scenes, watch your partner get shot or someone die in your arms.

In a way, public agencies paved the way for these presumptive laws by denying such claims rather than focusing on getting injured workers the necessary treatment. Public sector employers are now reporting seeing an increasing number of PTSD claims without corresponding bodily harm being claimed as part of employee compensation.

Kimberly George is Senior Vice President and Senior Health Care Advisor at Sedgwick. Mark Walls is vice president of communications and strategic analysis for Safety National. This blog post was reprinted with permission from

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