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Jun 20, 2023
Employee stress is costly to businesses
A team of tech professionals working together in the office.

Even before the historic layoffs in the tech sector, workers in that industry were among the most stressed. A survey of 32,644 IT professionals across 33 countries identified a burnout crisis, leading to poor outcomes for workers and their companies.

The survey found that 2 out of 5 tech workers are at a high risk of burnout due to longer hours, demanding workloads, and conflicts in work-life balance, while 62% reported feeling physically and emotionally drained. "When this happens day after day, allowing no space to recover mentally or physically, the ghosts of burnout exhaustion, self-inefficacy, cynicism, and depersonalization start closing in," the report said.

But stress and burnout aren't limited to the tech sector. In fact, employee mental health is an area of increasing concern to most organizations. Stress, depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions impact absenteeism, presenteeism, turnover, increased medical and legal costs, and diminished productivity among working-age adults. The American Institute of Stress calculated the total economic costs of stress on U.S. employers at $300 billion.

Benefits fatigue

For years, employers have experimented with metrics such as employee satisfaction or engagement to better understand their people and their benefit needs. After the extraordinary work disruptions of 2020–2022 and the evolution of workplaces to adapt to the next normal, employers are more aware of and sympathetic to the mental health of their employees. Many have been adding and expanding programs that support employees' mental, physical, and financial health.

But the amalgamation of old and new benefits has intensified what can be a confusing and sometimes intimidating landscape, where employees may be unaware of available programs or frustrated by the complexity of how to access and use them. Ironically, this inaccessibility can add to the stress these benefits are intended to address, causing employees to give up and leading to low utilization of benefits and increased health costs.

When it comes to addressing mental health conditions, the challenge of finding the right care is even more difficult. Recent research from Evernorth, the health services division of The Cigna Group, found that the 22% of people with a diagnosed behavioral condition account for 41% of health care spend. Even more concerning, 50% of people who have a diagnosed mental health issue don’t receive treatment. The reasons is simple: Finding a therapist who has demonstrated effective treatment for someone’s specific mental health condition is not easy. The demand for care is much higher than the supply of providers, which often leads to delays in care, poor patient outcomes, and higher health care costs.

A separate study from Evernorth Behavioral Health found that people diagnosed with a behavioral health condition, such as anxiety, depression, or substance use disorder, and who receive outpatient care had lower total health care costs by up to $1,377 per person in the first year after treatment. The savings impact was sustainable, with a two-year cost reduction of up to $3,109 per person. That's a win for an employer’s bottom line and their employees.

Guiding the way out of confusion

What's missing is a map that shows a clear picture of available benefits and provides guidance on how to use and access them. That crucial piece of information is a giant step out of benefits fatigue. Employers can help their people with this overwhelming challenge when they work with Cigna Healthcare.

Confide Behavioral Health Navigator is a powerful virtual front door that matches our members to the right resources at the right time. Using a simplified and intuitive assessment experience, Confide serves up an integrated care pathway aligned to the member's needs, providing tailored clinical guidance and care coordination.

Addressing the needs of an increasingly diverse workforce

But concierge support is just the first step. It's also important that the benefits offered to employees address the increasingly diverse needs of the workforce. Cigna Healthcare's commitment to growing the diversity and accessibility of our network providers is demonstrated by the following internal measurements reflecting network changes through 2022:

  • 46% increase in non-white providers in the past two years
  • 21% increase in providers with a cultural or race-related counseling specialty in the past year
  • 18.5% increase in providers with LGBTQ+ clinical specialization in the past year
  • 115,000 virtual providers – the largest virtual network in the country

Creating a supportive culture of health

Employers continue to wrestle with the impacts of a stress and burnout crisis that predates COVID-19 but has worsened in the years since. Addressing these concerns requires understanding the multidimensional contributors to employee stress and burnout and how those contributors vary across the workforce.

The continuing increase of new health and wellness benefits is unlikely to stop anytime soon. In order for those benefits to be utilized for their intended purpose and investment and to achieve high rates of engagement and the best possible outcomes, employers need to conquer benefits fatigue by providing clear, personalized guidance that ensures their members never feel lost.

Reach out to your Cigna Healthcare representative or broker today to get the expert consultation necessary to build, scale, and flex your employee mental health strategy.

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