The Loop

Non-Physical Wellness Benefits: Mental and Financial

Filed under: Benefits

It’s hard to stay focused at work when you don’t feel well. That and the potential for contagion are why employers provide sick days. But what if you’re feeling depressed, anxious, or stressed out over a work-related issue, or something in your personal life?

Most workers try to power through those types of feelings. But the reality is that stress can have a higher and longer-lasting impact on productivity than a temporary illness, yet workers are seldom inclined to take sick days to relieve a worried mind.

For employers concerned about the impact of workforce burnout, presenteeism and mental illness on their bottom line, wellness benefits that go beyond physical fitness may be just the answer. In fact, more than just mitigating the problem, offering mental health and financial benefits can help workers become more productive, more appreciative, and more loyal to their employers. That in itself delivers a powerful return on investment (ROI).

Mental Health Wellness Benefits

About one in every five workers suffers from some form of mental distress, whether temporary or long-term. The effects of stress cost American companies more than $300 billion each year; depression costs more than $44 billion in lost productivity. With such tremendous, tangible, and measurable impacts – it is indisputably advantageous for employers to offer benefits that address mental health issues.

Most people experience stress of one form or another at some point in their life. Those who suffer from depression and/or anxiety may feel additional stress because they are worried that other people will learn about it, judge them harshly, and their job and livelihood may be at risk. This means their mental health stress and work-related stress are further exacerbated by financial stress.

Over the long term, workers who suffer from chronic stress are not only subject to burnout but they also can experience physical symptoms of poor health. These circumstances put them at a higher risk of developing poor co-worker relations, workplace errors, injury, chronic illness, heart attack and stroke. It’s basically a snowball effect, wherein a steady diet of stress can inevitably lead to high medical expenses, thus further impacting employers both in productivity and healthcare coverage costs.

The following are examples of non-physical wellness benefits that some employers offer to help workers become mentally healthier, happier and more productive.


One of the best opportunities for a company to promote positive mental health is through an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). An EAP is a broad-based personal assistance program designed to help workers solve for specific behavioral and life issues outside of the work environment. For example, an EAP may provide resources and counseling for issues ranging from marital, financial, legal, dependent care, substance abuse, and mental health problems.

While EAPs have been around for a while, most programs have stepped up their offerings for certain issues, such as mental health care. Many employers have increased coverage for counseling from two-to-three sessions per year to eight-to-ten sessions per year.

EAP representatives expect these programs to become more popular as time goes on because the stigma attached to mental illness is diminishing. Both Millennials and the upcoming Centennial workforce, who experience higher levels of depression and anxiety than young adults in the past, are more willing to talk about their feelings and seek out help to address their maladies. With mental illness conditions becoming more commonplace, cultural attitudes continue to change and employer-sponsored EAPs – as workers learn more about them – may well become a key to mitigating these problems.

Dependent Care

With seniors living longer than ever, many workers are now tapped with the responsibility of caring for multiple generations of family members, ranging from children to teens to young adults to elderly parents. One strong benefit an EAP can offer is vetted recommendations for high -quality childcare and eldercare. Pair this benefit with financial assistance via subsidies, flexible spending accounts and onsite daycare, and employers can help alleviate a significant burden that many workers view as a constant worry.


Thanks to the ubiquitous use of cell phones, counseling via telephone is another benefit poised to expand. Many employers offer tele-counseling within their EAP program, which enables workers to engage with psychologists and other mental health professionals by phone, text, video conferencing, or online. This helps resolve the issue of taking time off work to travel to a counselor’s office.

There’s An App For That

Another perk to mobile technology are apps designed to help address mental health. Two of the most popular applications are MoodKit and Happify, which use cognitive behavioral therapy and mood training to treat mental health issues. Apps such as Calm and Headspace offer resources to help workers learn to relax, meditate, and sleep more soundly. Some employers offer access to such apps as a fully paid or subsidized benefit. Even more convenient than tele-therapy, apps enable workers to experiment with ways to improve their mental health, on their own time, and wherever they feel comfortable engaging. In other words, during their lunch hour, on the weekends, or in the middle of the night when they can’t get to sleep.

Resiliency Training

Another ongoing trend is to provide resiliency training, which offers coping skills to handle change and crises both in the work environment and in a worker’s personal life. This type of training teaches participants to harness accessible components within their own lives to cope with stressful events. These strategies may include establishing a supportive social network, emulating a resilient role model, prioritizing their physical well-being, reframing stressful thoughts, and adopting altruism to strengthen core values.

Financial Education

A recent survey revealed that eight in ten workers are under financial stress. While assistance programs such as childcare reimbursement and student loan aid can go a long way to alleviating financial stress, employers can go a step further to help foster stronger financial independence. 

Financial literacy training and resources can help workers learn how to budget, spend, save, and invest for long-term financial security. It can help them gain confidence and ward off the stress caused by falling victim to predatory financial schemes, such as subprime lending, payday loans, high-interest rates, and outright fraud.

Today, about a quarter of US workers say they would like their employer to provide additional support for mental health. The return on that investment appears to be quite high. According to a study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, more than 85 percent of workers self-reported that they had improved work performance and lower rates of absenteeism after receiving treatment for depression.

In recognition of this growing phenomenon, more than two-thirds (68 percent) of employers say they plan to focus more resources on mental health during the next two years. While increasing benefits is key, equally important is educating workers on their availability and encouraging the workforce to take advantage of them. It may be worth considering offering incentives to promote participation in non-physical wellness benefits, similar to health and fitness program rewards. After all, higher engagement will lead to greater ROI for both the organization and its workforce.

Perhaps most notably, a worker who has a positive outlook on life is more likely to be an ambassador for his employer. This is not only conducive to high morale, but also can help with recruiting efforts and word-of-mouth marketing for the company’s products or services.

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