May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and this year it's important to recognize the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the mental health of people of all ages. Many workplaces have taken note of this mental health toll and introduced new or enhanced wellness benefits for employees.
Here at FinanceBuzz, we've had firsthand experience with this type of benefit. In response to the added stress and mental health challenges brought on by the pandemic, our company added benefits from Holisticly. Each employee gets a monthly stipend they can use toward a wellness perk of their choice. Popular options include meditation and mindfulness memberships to services to Calm, TalkSpace, and Headspace, and healthy food delivery from Daily Harvest and HelloFresh.
Anecdotally, these new wellness benefits are a hit with the FinanceBuzz team — these perks routinely get mentioned in internal surveys as something much-loved and much-used. But, we wanted to dig deeper and see if there's been a larger impact in workplaces across the United States. FinanceBuzz recently surveyed 1,200 U.S. adults to find out how the pandemic has impacted their mental health and found that employer-sponsored wellness benefits do seem to be making an impact.
Are wellness benefits impactful?
Overall, we found that one-third of workplaces added wellness benefits (aside from health insurance) for the first time in the last year. An additional 30% of workplaces expanded existing benefits. Wellness benefits can take a number of forms, but popular ones include mental health counseling, meal delivery, gym reimbursement, and weight loss support.
We then compared the mental health of survey respondents with and without access to employer-sponsored health and wellness benefits to see how their mental health has been impacted over the past year.
The result: Less than 20% of those who have employer-sponsored health and wellness benefits reported that their mental health had declined over the last year. For those without these benefits, over two times as many — 42% — reported a mental health decline.
And looking at the bright side, over half (54%) of those with workplace wellness benefits reported that their mental health had actually improved over the last year. Less than 22% of those without benefits could say the same.
While there are sure to be other factors at play here, these stark differences point to the potential impact that work-sponsored wellness programs could have when it comes to the mental and emotional well-being of employees.
Remote work and mental health
Our survey also found that employees were more likely to have access to wellness benefits if they worked remotely at least some of the time.
Result: Over 72% of remote workplaces added or expanded health and wellness benefits in the last year, while less than 50% of in-person workplaces did the same.
We asked both groups — remote workers vs. in-person workers — to share how their mental health today compares to the start of the pandemic.
Result: More than 50% of remote workers surveyed reported that their mental health has improved since the start of the pandemic. Conversely, only 29% of in-person workers said the same.
The evidence suggest that remote work could be having a positive influence on mental health.