Blue Shield of California
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April 06, 2021 - 3 min read

Mental health and the workplace: what we’ve learned and what’s to come


The far-reaching and devastating effects of COVID-19 paired with a year of social unrest put mental health into the public spotlight. With over 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 details 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.” Annual survey, Business Health Group (BHG)

 “[E]mployers 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.” Bryan Robinson, Forbes.com

“Half of (employer survey) respondents (50%) will conduct anti-stigma campaigns in 2021.” BHG

“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.” Krupp, HBR

How we’re helping

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

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.

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