Employees not utilizing employer-paid health and wellness benefits

Study shows misalignment between employee health struggles and underutilization of support programs

Employees not utilizing employer-paid health and wellness benefits

Employees are feeling more stress and burnout, leading to lowered mental health and productivity in the workplace. However, despite this, only 37% of employees are utilizing their mental health benefits, says the ‘Unlocking the Potential of Employer-Provided Health Benefits’ report from CloudMD Software & Services Inc.

Overall, the study identifies a misalignment in the market today between the rise of employee mental health struggles and the limited utilization of support programs offered to them.

The least utilized services were paramedical benefits for mental health and employee and family assistance plans (EFAP). Employees who used paramedical benefits for mental health support reported greater satisfaction with their benefits offering than those who didn’t utilize them.

The three biggest barriers to utilization include: confusion around costs and services available, lack of time to participate with the programs offered, and wait time to access the services.

Along with the cost of care, there’s a rising number of barriers to care, says Karen Adams, president and CEO of CloudMD. “About 37% of people can’t take time off work to get to an appointment. And, even when they do have time to seek care, there are now six million Canadians who do not have a family doctor, while wait times in emergency rooms are at an all-time high.

Costs can change

“The social and economic costs are staggering, but this can change. With an enlightened approach and effective support, [employers] can help employees improve their health and return to being the best version of themselves. We need to combine clinical needs with personalized preferences to remove the barriers of time and cost.”

The report says employees want more choice in services, help navigating their benefits and coverage, proof that the programs work, and a better customer experience with less waiting. Younger employees want more choice in services, while male employees want more evidence that the programs work.

There is a clear opportunity for employers to increase employee wellness and job satisfaction and thereby reduce burnout and absenteeism by removing the barriers that prevent employees from fully benefiting from the supports offered to them.

“This survey tells us that employees want help in understanding and navigating their mental and physical health benefits,” says Adams. “Employers’ investment in health and wellness programs needs to include navigation services to enable people to gain access to care that meets not only their needs, but also their preferences. If employees aren’t fully utilizing the care available to them, this diminishes the value that both employees and employers receive, resulting in lower employee satisfaction, deteriorating mental and physical health, and higher rates of absenteeism.

“We’ve repeatedly demonstrated that health navigation closes the utilization gap and increases return on healthcare investments. Historically this approach was used to navigate complex disability cases. Now we use that same process to help connect employees to the right services and support them throughout their entire journey.”