Walmart Expands Mental Health Benefits

May 31, 2023

​Walmart is expanding mental health benefits for its employees, doubling the number of therapy and mental health coaching sessions it provides to all workers and their dependents, the company announced last week.

The retailer is increasing the number of free therapy and mental health coaching sessions to 20 sessions per year, up from 10 previously. The sessions, which are provided by licensed mental health professionals, are available to all U.S. employees—including part-time workers and new hires—as well as their household dependents. Those benefits begin on an employee's first day on the job.

The extended benefit comes shortly after the rollout of another company mental health initiative: Walmart and Sam's Club in April began a workplace mental health course to train company leaders on how to help employees who might be dealing with a behavioral health issue. In the first four weeks, more than 10,000 workers completed the course, Walmart said.

"It is important all have access to benefits and resources that can support [employees] and their families at any stage of life," Kim Lupo, the company's senior vice president of global total rewards, said in a blog post. "It's not enough to just tell people you're here if they need anything. You have to actually show up for them."

The move from the retail giant comes as mental health issues continue to increase among workers. Pandemic stresses, inflation pressures and more have resulted in increased rates of depression, anxiety, stress and burnout, among other issues. As a result, many employers have added new mental health benefits, or extended existing ones, to help.

We've gathered articles from SHRM Online about mental health in the workplace.

Declines Seen in Employee Well-Being

Research released by insurance company MetLife in March found a significant decline in employees' overall holistic health—incorporating physical, financial, mental and social health—with financial and mental health in particular showing sharp declines.

According to the company's annual benefits study, which surveyed 2,840 benefits leaders and 2,884 full-time employees, just 65 percent of employees said they are mentally well, although employers don't seem to understand the full scope of the problem: 85 percent said their employees are mentally well.

Meanwhile, 55 percent of employees said they are financially well, while 83 percent of employers said their employees are financially well. A sharp decline in financial wellness is not only primarily responsible for the decrease in holistic health, MetLife's survey found—it's also closely correlated to worsening mental health. Nearly half (48 percent) of employees cited financial concerns, up from 31 percent in 2022, as the cause of their poorer mental health. Stress and burnout are also both significantly higher than before the pandemic, MetLife found.

"Employers should consider the evolving needs of their workforce and offer benefits to support their needs," said Missy Plohr-Memming, senior vice president, national accounts sales, group benefits at MetLife.

(SHRM Online)

SHRM Research: Work Is Negatively Impacting Employees' Mental Health

A number of U.S. employees say their job is hurting their mental health—and they are increasingly looking to their employer to make matters better. If conditions don't improve, they might leave for other opportunities, according to research from SHRM.

One in three U.S. employees say their job has had a negative impact on their mental health over the past six months, with 30 percent saying their job has made them feel overwhelmed and 29 percent saying it's made them feel anxious at least once a week, according to new data by SHRM Research released on May 1 to mark the start of Mental Health Awareness Month. The survey of 1,000 workers, which was administered March 15-28, also found that 27 percent of Generation Z workers say their job has made them feel depressed at least once a week in the past six months. That's not only putting them at risk for other health issues, but it's also causing many of them to look for a new job.

Importantly, SHRM research finds that nearly half of U.S. employees (45 percent) have higher expectations for the level of mental health support their organizations should provide, compared to last year.

"This finding suggests that employees are looking to their organizations to take an active role in supporting their mental health," said SHRM lead researcher Ragan Decker, Ph.D., SHRM-CP. "This reflects a growing awareness of the importance of mental health in the workplace and the need for employers to address it. Employers will need to recognize and adapt to these changing expectations."

(SHRM Online)

Younger Workers Looking for Mental Health Help

While employees at large are looking for more mental health help from their employer, it's even more prevalent among younger workers, research indicates.

SHRM research found that 61 percent of Generation Z respondents said they would strongly consider leaving their current job if offered a new one with significantly better mental health benefits. And Monster's 2023 State of the Graduate Report found that 54 percent of 1,000 new and soon-to-be college graduates would turn down a job offer if an employer did not offer work/life balance. Ninety-two percent of respondents said it's important they feel comfortable discussing mental wellness at work.

There are a number of strategies employers can deploy to provide the support these job seekers want, including conducting mindfulness training during onboarding, encouraging managers to serve as mental wellness role models and providing mental health training to managers.

(SHRM Online)



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