Skip to main content

Let workers drive policy and program change

Creating a mentally healthy workplace requires cross-departmental collaboration and investment from all levels of an organization. Transformative change does not occur overnight, but the impact on employee health and happiness far outweighs the initial investment. In collaboration with Mental Health America’s Bell Seal Recipients, MHA identified several supportive policy and program change areas based on employees’ direct feedback. Examples are provided for each area.

1) Increased or improved mental health benefits and additional support

Examples include increasing the number of in-network mental health care providers; negotiating with insurance carriers to cover out-of-network providers at the in-network rates; transitioning to an incentivized annual primary care visit model to increase the number of workers scheduling wellness visits; contributing to workers’ Health Savings Account (HSA) plans to help pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses; and providing workers earning less than a designated threshold a biweekly credit to subsidize health care costs.

Examples include providing free, unlimited virtual mental health therapy to all workers; expanding free onsite health clinic or counseling services; providing workers paid time off to attend a support group or therapy during work hours; hiring a full-time facility dog dedicated to support staff’s emotional well-being; and improving benefits for part-time workers.

Examples include increasing the number of sessions to 12 free sessions per year, extending services to workers’ family members, and improving the response times and session availability.

Examples include increasing paid parental leave to 12 weeks; adding fertility treatment as a medical benefit; reimbursing adoption expenses incurred in carrying out any surrogate parenting relationship; broadening how family members are defined to allow greater access to benefits; offering therapy, coaching, and couples therapy to workers’ families; adding paid caregiver leave; subsidizing child care backup and support for eldercare, child care sourcing, and tutoring; increasing paid bereavement leave to five days; and clarifying the inclusion of miscarriage or stillbirth, discontinuation of adoption or foster, or the loss of a person of significance in the bereavement leave policy.

Examples include offering fully remote and hybrid work options and flexible scheduling; implementing a four-day work week; establishing days in which workers are encouraged not to schedule meetings; allowing eligible workers to telework internationally for up to four weeks; providing paid mental health days for all staff; and providing time off to allow workers to engage in diversity, equity, and inclusion education or to volunteer.

2) Updated policies and procedures to reflect person-centered values and protect workers

Examples include routinely evaluating the compensation policy for fair pay and workers’ perceptions of fair pay; standardizing new hire and performance evaluation processes; updating professional development policies to clearly define the career path for each role; and implementing a “return-from-leave” program to support workers transitioning back to work after taking extended leave.

Examples include streamlining the accommodations process to be more accessible and efficient for workers with mental health or substance use conditions; providing workers the option to input a secondary, safe mailing address into the payroll system to support survivors and victims of domestic violence; creating gender transitioning guidelines to support workers in transition; developing a comprehensive harassment policy and procedure; creating a policy and mandatory training to address workplace bullying; and adding a tip line for workers to report incidences of perceived and real bias or discrimination.

Examples include launching a real-time debriefing program to aid health care workers’ emotional well-being after a traumatic event; implementing a Stress First Aid program to provide immediate response and support to employees affected by work-related stressors; adding a policy for life emergencies; allowing up to a week of paid time off in the event of a personal catastrophic life event; and adding critical incident time off to address employees that have experienced a critical incident, such as a mall shooting or employee death.

Learn more about workplace mental health

Find mental health resources for employers and employees and get your workplace certified.