6 Strategies to Maximize the ROI of your Mental Health Investments

Mental health is a critical aspect of overall well-being, and its significance in the workplace has gained increasing recognition in recent years. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), approximately one in five adults experience a mental health problem each year. The Aflac WorkForces Report surveyed 1,201 employers and 2,000 employees across the United States in 2023 and found burnout and workplace stress to be top concerns for workers. The survey also discovered that 89% of employees who report high levels of burnout have also suffered other mental health challenges over the past year – most commonly anxiety, depression, and trouble sleeping. This highlights the far-reaching impact of mental health on the workforce and why it’s imperative for employers to address this challenge. 

Organizations can embrace several key strategies to maximize return on investment (ROI) including designing comprehensive benefit programs, aligning programs with employee preferences, leveraging technology for mental health support, promoting mental health awareness, fostering a supportive work environment, and implementing early intervention and preventive measures. 

Strategy #1: Design Comprehensive Mental Health Benefit Programs 

Prioritizing mental health as part of a holistic well-being strategy yields greater value to both the employee and employer, and a positive ROI. Integrating mental health initiatives with physical wellness, work-life balance, and overall well-being programs creates a comprehensive approach to employee health that addresses multiple aspects of their lives. 

Benefit programs should provide adequate coverage for mental health services to enable employee choice and accessibility, including in-person and virtual options and digital solutions. Digital self-service mental health programming is scalable and complements in-person therapy by eliminating wait times to seek care, being available 24/7, and preserving provider time for more complex mental health problems.  

Organizations demonstrate their commitment to employee well-being by ensuring that mental health services are covered on par with physical health services. 

Strategy #2: Align with Employee Preferences and Expectations 

Several key criteria should guide the evaluation of mental health service providers, programs, and digital solutions to optimize employee use, improve mental health, and increase value to both employees and employers. Tailor initiatives to meet the unique needs of the workforce including the industry, job roles, and employee demographics. Offer a range of resources and services that address a wide variety of mental health problems and allow employees to choose what works best for them. 

Consider the following criteria to ensure that solutions effectively meet the mental health needs of employees and encourage utilization: 

  • Qualifications and expertise. Assess the qualifications, certifications, and expertise of mental health service providers and solutions. Evaluate credentials, relevant experience, and specialized training in delivering evidence-based interventions for specific mental health conditions.  
  • Accessibility and availability. For in-person resources, consider factors such as location, office hours, appointment availability, and waiting times. For digital services and resources, evaluate bandwidth requirements, device options such as mobile phones or tablets, and delivery methods such as the internet or downloadable apps.  
  • Cultural competence. It is essential that providers and solutions accommodate and understand the cultural nuances and needs of a diverse workforce. Cultural competence within the provider network or the programs and service offerings creates a more inclusive and supportive environment for employees from various backgrounds. 
  • Evidence-based practices. Evaluate whether providers and services utilize evidence-based practices and interventions. Evidence-based approaches have been rigorously researched and shown to be effective in treating specific mental health challenges.  
  • Quality assurance and outcome measurement. Service and solution providers should have systems in place to monitor and evaluate effectiveness. They should collect data, measure outcomes, and continuously improve based on feedback and evidence.  
  • Employee feedback and satisfaction. Employee feedback can provide insights into the perceived effectiveness, accessibility, and overall experience with the service provider. 
  • Integration and collaboration. Consider how the service provider or solution integrates with other health care professionals, EAPs, and wellness initiatives. Collaboration between mental health providers and other support services helps ensure a coordinated approach to employee well-being and has been shown to be effective in treating specific mental health conditions. 

Strategy #3: Leverage Technology for Mental Health Support 

Explore digital tools and platforms that can range from very specific apps for meditation or stress management, all the way to comprehensive suites of programs using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that guide self-assessment and address a wide range of mental health challenges. One study noted that both digital CBT and traditional psychotherapy are equally effective, but the lower cost of digital services yields a value that is six times that of psychotherapy

Utilize data analytics to gain insights into employee mental health trends, identify areas of concern, and personalize interventions. Analyze data to tailor programs to the specific needs of the workforce and improve the effectiveness and relevance of support. Collaborate with the technology vendor to calculate the solution's effectiveness and ROI regularly. 

Technology has played a crucial role in the expansion of mental health solutions. Digital platforms and mobile applications have made mental health resources more accessible to a wider population. Virtual therapy sessions, online support communities, and telemedicine services have become increasingly popular, providing greater convenience, and overcoming geographical barriers to mental health care. 

Strategy #4: Promote Mental Health Awareness and Reduce Stigma 

Organizations that prioritize mental health place a strong emphasis on communication, education, and awareness. Proactive communication reduces stigma, promotes a culture of understanding, and educates employees about mental health topics and resources.  

Organizations can regularly promote mental health initiatives to build trust, encourage participation, and foster a supportive culture. Active employee engagement in mental health initiatives may be driven by creating forums for open discussions, organizing mental health awareness campaigns, and encouraging participation in wellness activities. Engage employees in the design and implementation of mental health benefits options to foster ownership and strengthen the culture of mental well-being within the organization. 

Strategy #5: Foster a Supportive Work Environment 

Promote a culture of support and prioritize mental health by obtaining leadership buy-in and advocacy. Leaders should actively promote and participate in mental health initiatives, encourage open communication, and lead by example in prioritizing their own mental well-being. 

Organizations can also form employee support networks or resource groups focused on mental health. These networks provide a platform for employees to connect, share experiences, and provide mutual support, fostering a sense of community and belonging. 

Strategy #6: Implement Early Intervention and Preventive Measures 

Offer mental health screenings or assessments to employees as part of routine health check-ups. Early identification of mental health concerns allows for timely intervention and support, reducing the risk of more serious issues and associated costs in the future.  

Implement preventive wellness initiatives that address various dimensions of well-being, including physical, emotional, and social aspects. These initiatives may include stress management programs, resilience training, mindfulness workshops, and activities that promote work-life balance. Preventive measures can help mitigate the development or exacerbation of mental health conditions. 

Maximize Your Organization’s ROI 

Interested in more evidence-based insights on the ROI of workplace mental health initiatives? Download the white paper, “Unlocking the Value of Employee Mental Health and Well-being: Part 1.”