Employment Trends

Work is my therapy: making the case for counseling benefits

Written by Guest Contributor

There’s no doubt about it: looking for a new job is stressful. There are a lot of things to consider, outside of the work itself. Salary, of course, is usually top-of-mind for job seekers — after all, that weekly or biweekly paycheck is likely what’s going to keep a roof over your family’s head and food on the table.

Next, there are the other important things to consider: the work schedule, the commute, health and retirement benefits, and continued education support. But what about mental health counseling? Now more than ever, employers are incorporating mental healthcare into their employee benefits packages. And if the employer you’re considering doesn’t, then before you accept the job, here’s why you should really make your case for counseling benefits.

The impact of mental health

Including mental healthcare into employee compensation packages doesn’t just help the employee, it also greatly benefits the company. According to current estimates, more than $44 billion are lost each year in US worker productivity due to depressive disorders, while major depressive disorder alone is estimated to cost upwards of $200 billion annually. Thus, it’s vital that your insurance coverage includes not only physical healthcare benefits but also psychiatric and behavioral care. A robust mental healthcare benefits package will go far in helping your employer build a happy, healthy, more engaged, and higher-performing workforce.

Couch or cubicle?

One of the most exciting, and most convenient, aspects of mental healthcare today is that you usually don’t have to travel to a doctor’s office to receive it. In fact, thanks to the advent of telemedicine, you can now have your counseling sessions wherever you want — whether from the comfort of your own home or the privacy of your office or cubicle.

Provided that your company has a robust wireless internet system, you can even download secure apps to allow you to “meet” with your therapist by text or video call. With this advancement in technology, you can explain to your potential employer that not only does having a mental health professional on hand at all times make it easier to address those issues when they arise, but employees won’t even have to leave the office in order to attend appointments!

Feeling good with fido

Pet therapy has become commonplace in hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities. Animals are even increasingly being brought into schools to help students with autism and other special needs cope with their anxieties.

Did you know, though, that more and more workplaces are allowing dogs in the office to help reduce employee stress and boost morale? In fact, some of the nation’s most prestigious corporations, from Amazon and Nestle Purina to Google and Salesforce, are building their brands as dog-friendly enterprises. According to current estimates, in 2015, 8% of all US businesses allowed their staff to bring their dogs to work, an increase of 5% since 2013 — and there’s a good reason for it, too.

According to the University of Southern California, “More and more frequently, employers and employees are discovering that pets at the workplace make them happier, lower stress levels, and create a comfortable, flexible environment. Pets can create camaraderie within the workplace and trigger interactions that may not have happened without them.”

Mood music

If bringing Buster to work is a no-go, and pouring your heart out to your counselor in the middle of a workday just isn’t appealing, there are still things you, your colleagues, and your employer can do to promote mental well-being in the workplace.

Music is a great place to start. Music is shown to provide a range of mental health benefits, from reducing stress and promoting relaxation to even aiding in the battle against addiction. That’s because music has been demonstrated to produce a number of important changes in the brain, including triggering the release of the body’s “feel-good” chemicals, such as dopamine and oxytocin.

There are a number of tricks to incorporating music into your workday, from tuning the communal radio to a preferred station to popping in a pair of earbuds when you’re focused on a solitary task. But your employer could even choose to take it further, such as by having a dedicated space, such as a private room, where staff can go to decompress, relax, and zone out while listening to their favorite relaxing tune.

The takeaway

Job hunting is not a simple thing. In many ways, finding the ideal employer can feel like a full-time job itself, with the stakes just as high. There are a lot of ingredients to making the perfect job, from the work itself to the pay and the perks.

It’s essential that your new job provides enough income to feed, clothe, and house your family, as well as offer enough insurance coverage to protect your health and your retirement. As imperative as these benefits are, however, having robust mental health coverage is just as vital. Mental illness not only severely compromises the quality of life of sufferers and their families, but it also costs employers billions of dollars every year in lost productivity.

Comprehensive mental healthcare coverage benefits both employers and their employees by building a more satisfied, productive, and engaged workforce. However, caring for the psychological and emotional well-being of employees doesn’t just mean providing counseling and mental health benefits. It also means providing resources to reduce anxiety and improve morale, and that can happen in a number of different ways, from allowing staff to bring their beloved canines to the office to infusing the workspace with a symphony of uplifting and inspiring music.

About the Author:
Jori Hamilton is a writer from the Pacific Northwest who has a particular interest in social justice, politics, education, healthcare, technology, and more. You can follow her on Twitter @ HamiltonJori.

About the author

Guest Contributor