In 2022, Employers Will Finally Regard Mental Health As Serious Business
For many, burnout and stress have been on the rise since the onset of the pandemic, fueled in large part by the need to juggle work demands with competing life responsibilities (parenting, caretaking, health issues, or otherwise). The situation has led some to consider what they really want in a job and how that fits into their whole life. And for certain employees, that’s meant leaving companies where they don’t feel supported in a mass exodus that’s being called the Great Resignation.
With employers aware of this dynamic, they have no choice but to listen to employees signaling that mental health support is an important benefit to them. And in 2022, workplaces will invest in the growing number of resources available that offer mental-health-focused benefits, including subsidized mental wellness and therapy services, mental health training at work, self-guided tools and apps, and mentorship, according to a September 2021 survey from Talkspace for Business.
“More employees are aware that their own resilience levels may be low and that this is affecting their work,” says psychiatrist Gabriella Kellerman, MD, chief product officer at BetterUp, a digital coaching and counseling platform that’s been around since 2013 and has seen an 80 percent growth of its user base this year. “This connection has always been true, but the broader awareness of it and demand for integrated support is much higher.”76%
An October 2021 survey from Calm for Business (the meditation app’s employer offering) of 3,000 U.S. employees found that 76 percent say that mental health benefits are now critical to them in evaluating a new job. And the survey from Talkspace for Business (the 2018-launched corporate offering of the virtual therapy company, which served 55 million people in 2021, up from 6.7 million in 2019, a Talkspace representative says) found that 52 percent of respondents who were considering leaving their jobs would stay if their company offered more mental health services.
The pandemic shouldn’t serve as a scapegoat for this uptick in burnout, though; moreso, it brought to light symptoms that have gone unnoticed and untreated for too long. “The pandemic just made it so that individuals and organizations can no longer ignore [burnout],” says, Erayna Sargent, founder of burnout-focused consultancy Hooky Wellness and a Well+Good Trends Advisor, adding that with burnout finally being seen as a systemic issue rather than an individualized one (a belief that’s often steeped in shame, stigma, and a perceived sense of failure), it’s now possible for real, collective change to take shape.
Some evidence of that change in progress? In February, mental-health-care provider Modern Health, which launched in 2017, raised $74 million in Series D funding, bringing its valuation to over $1 billion. Modern Health currently serves more than 220 corporations, including some well-known names like Pixar, Clif Bar, and Zendesk. In June, Lyra Health, a digital mental health platform for employers founded in 2014, completed a $200 million round of financing and, according to a Lyra Health spokesperson, the platform has more than doubled its customer base since 2020, now serving more than 2.5 million people and their families. (Companies offering Lyra’s offerings to employees include eBay and Uber.) In 2022, it plans to use its increased funding to extend support for alcohol abuse and suicidal ideation, among other focuses. Then, in September, Spring Health, a mental health provider for employers that counts Instacart, PepsiCo, and General Mills among its clients, raised $190 million in Series C funding to be used to expand offerings next year, bringing the company’s current valuation to $2 billion.
Most recently, in October, BetterUp raised $300 million in Series E funding, extending its valuation to $4.7 billion. With that funding, Dr. Kellerman says that next year, BetterUp plans to focus on “product innovation to further democratize coaching and whole-person development, reaching millions of employees, no matter their position or level within an organization.”
Also with the goal to democratize mental health and well-being services, the merger between mindfulness company Headspace and on-demand mental health service Ginger closed in October. Their new joint platform Headspace Health is valued at $3 billion and plans to reach 100 million people across more than 190 countries by combining the two companies’ strengths: Headspace’s clout as a trusted consumer brand and Ginger’s clinical prowess for providing intervention to treat mental health conditions, says Dana Udall, PhD, chief clinical officer at Headspace Health. “This depth and scale simply doesn’t exist in the current landscape of corporate mental health programs,” she adds.
“The challenge for the workforce right now is not going to go back to normal. Instead of trying to make us fit the mold of what we were before, [the question is,] how can we design for where we are right now and where we're about to move?” Erayna Sargent, founder of Hooky Wellness
Mental health subscription platform Cerebral launched right before the onset of the pandemic and has since seen success and growth both from individual consumers and corporate partners, says Jessica Muse, COO. (Also generating buzz for Cerebral is the fact that Olympic gymnast Simone Biles signed on as chief impact officer in October, following Prince Harry signing on with BetterUp as chief impact officer in March.) “Demand has grown at a rapid rate and we have now served hundreds of thousands of clients,” Muse says. “As our original consumer offering has picked up momentum, it has opened doors on the corporate partnership side, as employers take into account the expectations of their employees around behavioral health options.”
Effective workplace wellness that prioritizes mental health in 2022 won’t just be limited to these third-party offerings, though. "I expect a trend in merging work and wellness beyond the current app-based solutions,” says Sargent. For example, personal finance company SoFi, which has offered Modern Health to its employees since April 2020, has adopted a permanent flexible working policy that allows employees to work with their managers to opt for in-office, remote, or hybrid working conditions, whichever best suits their needs. And this year, outdoor apparel brand Patagonia waived deductibles and service fees for employees accessing mental health care from in-network providers. For its part, Google began offering a number of “global reset days” to help employees rest and recharge.
Sargent also predicts employers will be better about raising employee awareness of the benefits that are already available to them. “There continues to be a lack of awareness of [employee assistance programs, or EAPs]—utilization is still really bad, but people are now starting to talk about it,” she says. For example, the Talkspace survey found that while 72 percent of respondents said paid time off for mental health would be a helpful benefit, only 18 percent specified using that benefit.
“The challenge for the workforce right now is not going to go back to normal,” Sargent says. “Instead of trying to make us fit the mold of what we were before, [the question is,] how can we design for where we are right now and where we're about to move?” As we move forward into 2022, corporate mergers, industry dollars, and employee demand points to that design focusing strongly on mental health offerings.
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