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Gene (00:02):

Hey everybody, this is Gene Marks and welcome to The Hartford’s Small Biz Ahead. This is my weekly segment that I do solo without my friend Jon Aidukonis where I talk about certain things that are in the news or topics that I think of interest to you running a business that impacts your business and with some advice. Before I get started, let me just remind you, if you’d like any tips or advice or help running your business, please visit us at or The Hartford I think I got that right this time. All right, let’s get into it. This week’s episode, I wanna talk a little bit about mental health and mental health benefits as well. Because you know guys like mental health is no longer a stigma and a lot of small employers are taking notice. 84% of a respondents in a recent survey of more than a thousand employees by a benefits firm called Lyra Health said that mental health benefits were important to them.

Gene (00:54):

That’s a pretty significant number. More significant is that 92% of employers said that providing mental health support for their people has become a much higher priority in 2021 with even more saying they expected to stay that way for the foreseeable future. And I kind of get it right? I mean, listen, younger employees, millennials, gen Xers, who make up the bulk of today’s workforce. They do not consider mental health issues to be the kind of stigma as it was in the past. The average age of the U.S. small business owner is over the age of 50. And I’m one of them. We come from a generation, that think that mental health or mental illness is something you just don’t talk about, but that’s changed. The workplace has changed. Many of these younger workers have suffered through depression and anxiety and apprehension because of the last two years of the pandemic, right?

Gene (01:43):

With many others still hesitant to return. Even as I record this, they’re hesitant to return to work because of continuing health concerns. There are celebrities out there like Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles and Ben Simmons, unfortunately for us sixers fans, that have had issues with mental health and they’ve expanded the awareness of that issue. So it’s become more commonplace than ever. And employees are demanding more benefits in this area and employers, at least good employers are responding. So the question I have to ask you is…is your business providing the right level of mental health benefits that you think your employees need? One client said to me, that people are more motivated when their basic needs are met, right? That’s why it’s important. Now more than ever for employers to prioritize employees’ wellbeing and mental health. I spoke to a friend of mine who runs an accounting firm in New Jersey…

Gene (02:35):

He said to me that they’re painfully aware of the impact that COVID has had on their employees and their wellbeing, which is why his firm’s mental benefits are so important. He says, and I’m quoting him now, “We’ve learned that when our employees are feeling good about ourselves, they do a better job.” So listen, for you to attract good employees, for you to retain good employees, particularly in this era of low labor supply and competition for good workers, you’ve got to address this issue. You’ve got to provide good competitive mental health benefits. And if you’re gonna do this and if you’re thinking of revisiting your mental health benefits, my advice to you is that you can break these benefits down really into three main categories. The first category has to do with coverage. You need to check with your health insurance provider to confirm what coverage is available for your employees who may have mental health issues…

Gene (03:29):

And to make sure that your employees are aware of these benefits. Many plans cover counseling services and medications aimed at mental health. Large insurance companies are recognizing this growing demand. They’re stepping up their offerings as well. But having this coverage is only the beginning. What’s important is ensuring that your employees know about the benefits available to them. So, to do this, you’ve gotta create awareness. You’ve gotta get the word out. One client of mine, she runs a small service business outside Philadelphia. She says she’s compiled a mental health resource page for her employees. That includes all the company’s benefits and even contains her personal approach to finding a therapist with commentaries of the things that worked and didn’t work for her. She said to me, we really try to stress that this is something that impacts everybody in some capacity, whether directly or indirectly, she says this is something that you should feel safe about talking about in your company.

Gene (04:26):

I mean there’s certainly confidentiality and steps taken to maintain employees’ privacy. But I mean, let’s admit there’s one size does not fit all when it comes to mental health. I mean, there was a perception that a mental health issue only happens when there’s some extreme observable ailments that a person might have, but people recognize now that mental health is really a spectrum and everyone lands on somewhere on that spectrum and that capacity. So, you wanna get the word out as much as you can. And I think holding these sort of mental health resources pages and getting the awareness to your employees is really important. Another thing you might consider doing to spread their awareness is to have maybe like a speaker series, maybe monthly or quarterly that focuses on overall wellbeing.

Gene (05:14):

You can bring in plenty of experts on these topics. They’ll do the presentations online or in-person for free, because it could result in more business for them. So, that kind of thing shows your demonstrated ability to make a concerted effort to spread that awareness to all of your company’s employees. Because you remember employee wellbeing is expanded to a more holistic approach. I mean, it’s physical, it’s emotional, it’s financial, it’s social it’s community purpose. So, you’ve gotta develop better workplace resilience and increase your engagement and spread awareness. So, the first category, again, you wanna identify what your coverage is and spread that awareness. The second thing you want to do to provide mental health benefits to your people is to really step up the level of services that you’re providing. There are some really great platforms that are out there and we can include these in the show notes, but there’s platforms like BetterUp, Fringe, Talkspace and Lyra who I mentioned at the top of this episode that did the study on mental health.

Gene (06:17):

These platforms, they not only provide a variety of wellness benefits but they let their subscribers get mental health support from trained and certified professionals that can provide counseling confidentially on whatever schedule that they want. Now, I have some clients that have hired freelance psychologists and coaches to be on call for any employees that they feel that they need mental help. So, again, you wanna provide those services. You wanna check what’s covered by your insurance. You wanna spread your awareness, but then you also wanna provide some services like these platforms that I mentioned. Finally, you gotta revisit your company’s culture. My best clients today, they recognize the need for flexible schedules, work from home options and other things that are, can promote independent working from your employees.

Gene (07:07):

It gives them the ability to determine where and when they do their jobs. Those same clients in mind, they offer a more easygoing office environment. They offer more breaks and social events and other activities for their employees so that they can counteract their stress that occurs out at their jobs. One client of mine has what they call an internal fun club. It’s literally a group of employees who schedule regular quarterly events, ranging from employee fun days to like an annual employee appreciation day. Cuz it brings together all their employees. They have multiple offices. So it brings ’em together into one place, which is nice. The fun club also arranges social events and happy hours as well. It’s literally like an internal committee of employees that are just, they’re tasked with creating fun stuff for everybody else in the company to do.

Gene (07:54):

I have another client that has something called Feel Good Fridays, where they close their own offices. The employees are allowed to unplug, do anything they want from playing golf to walking their dogs. So many of us during the pandemic, we kind of suffer from FOMO, the fear of missing out. And sometimes you’re afraid if you walk away from work, you’re gonna miss on some important email or call or meeting that’s going on. If you have something like a Feel Good Friday, like my client and they kind of shut down their offices, you have to feel like anybody else is doing work either. So you’re not missing out on anything. And you can relax and enjoy yourself. By the way that same client, they have flexible scheduling too.

Gene (08:34):

They also offer unlimited paid time off to their employees, a topic I’ve covered before. They require their employees to take 10 days off a year to avoid burnout. To them that’s not even a negotiable thing. So listen, the pandemic has blurred the lines between work and life for many. And it’s also created new anxieties, which is why it’s critical now for small business owners, that’s you and me to prioritize our employees wellbeing. Particularly in these times of tight labor, we’re gonna be asked about this employee wellbeing. It’s a priority benefit now. It’s not gonna change anytime zoom. So we have got to address the way that our workplace is to make sure that it is a sane place to work, an enjoyable place to work so that people can feel comfortable and safe and secure, when they’re working in our businesses. Hope you enjoy this and hope you’ll apply…

Gene (09:22):

Some of these things I talked about to make mental health benefits better in your company or spread it. Because again, it will make a big difference in these tight labor times. My name is Gene Marks. You have been listening to this episode of The Hartford’s Small Biz Ahead podcast. Again, you could visit us at or You can get advice, you can get tips, you can get help for running your business, podcasts like this, including the ones that I deal with my friend, Jon Aidukonis as well. Plus a lot of written material on videos, too. Hope this information is helpful for you and we will see you again next week. Take care until then.

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