Faizal Mitha is Chief Sales and Innovation Officer for global insurance brokerage Hub International’s Employee Benefits division in Canada.

The mental health crisis almost isn’t news anymore. Even before the global pandemic began, half a million Canadians missed work each week due to mental health issues. One recent survey reported that more than half of Canadians said their mental health had worsened over the last two years. Another poll suggested that Millennials in particular are struggling, with roughly 30 percent in need of professional help.

As the lockdowns become a thing of the past, we would like to think that mental health can begin to improve. Yet there is a price to reopening. Those who are struggling with mental health challenges are now experiencing anxiety related to the return to the office.

Those employers who can be flexible about a return to work may get off easy. But other employers are likely to see greater turnover if they don’t counter with additional support for employees struggling with their mental or physical health.

Focus on Wellbeing

Employees, especially those who have been working from home for the last two years, have different priorities today. Their careers may no longer be the centre of their lives. They have a greater understanding of the importance of mental and physical wellness.

Traditional services that have supported employee mental health may not be sufficient to support these needs – at least not in their old clothes.

Today, technology is bridging the information gap between sources, allowing for employers to better understand employee behaviour. Still, employers need to find ways to integrate their mental health support with their other health benefits. This not only helps current employees feel comfortable and cared for, but it creates a culture of wellbeing in the organization that can attract new talent as well.

A Digital Health Ecosystem

The answer is a comprehensive tech solution, a digital platform on which employees can access all health-related benefits in one place. This digital system allows employees to access their healthcare information whenever they want, wherever they want: through their personal computers, smartphones and tablets, using an app or a single website.

An integrated digital health platform can offer access to virtual medicine through telehealth, as well as a personal care coordinator. In navigating the benefits landscape, employees may not know where to start. Regardless of their immediate needs, they may quit in frustration. An integrated platform offers access to a personal care coordinator to assist struggling employees to navigate the maze of benefits and find the resources they need.

Other benefits include:

● Improved access to care. Many employees let their healthcare slide during the COVID-19 pandemic. Unable to see a physician in person, many did not take advantage of virtual visits. Yet telemedicine is much more attractive if it’s part of an integrated platform that makes it easy to schedule visits and consult with doctors.

● Increased productivity. Each year, absenteeism and “presenteeism” cost organizations hundreds of billions of dollars in lost productivity. An integrated health platform combats absenteeism and presenteeism by directing employees toward immediate help.

● No searching for help. Onboarding is an overwhelming time for employees. And with a lack of ongoing communication, it’s no wonder employees don’t know what their benefits include. And by the time they need help, they may not remember where to find it. A centralized system allows employees to get the health benefits information they need, while saving valuable time for HR teams.

● Improved ROI. Currently, only 11 percent  of Canadians use their EAP. Often that’s due to a lack of ongoing communication by HR teams. But employees are likely to have better information when they can access a supportive platform through their smartphones, tablets or personal computers. What’s more, they’re even more likely to make use of mental health resources under these circumstances.

Offering the same old benefits without addressing the current reality isn’t enough. But an integrated solution can make everything easy, from identifying relevant coverage to finding a specific practitioner. For your anxious, worried employees, demonstrating this kind of support may be the best way to help bring them back toward a healthy mental outlook – and even back into the office comfortably.