Fewer Than Half of HR Managers Say Companies Are Ready to Support Employees' Drug and Mental Health Issues

PORTLAND, Ore.— New research from Standard Insurance Company (The Standard) finds that employers are struggling the most to support employees with mental health and substance abuse issues and aren’t confident in their ability to provide appropriate accommodations.

The Standard’s Absence and Disability Readiness Index found that 29% of those surveyed feel very confident in accommodating employees’ mental health conditions. Only 28% are very confident in accommodating employees with drug addictions.

Behind this lack of confidence are three common challenges employers face when accommodating mental health conditions:

Thinking employees hide their conditions: 64% of employers think their workers hide their conditions. In a separate study, The Standard found that 47% of employees were scared to talk about their condition.

Lack of recognition: 52% of supervisors lack the knowledge to recognize mental health conditions.

Stigma: 30% of employers cite that the prejudice against people with mental health conditions makes it difficult to provide accommodations.

“When the signs of mental health and substance use conditions go unaddressed, it can have a drastic impact on the workplace in the form of lost productivity and presenteeism,” said Dan Jolivet, Workplace Possibilities practice consultant at The Standard. “Many times, HR managers are left to solve these problems alone, reaching far beyond their area of expertise.”

But instead of going it alone, The Standard found that partnering with a disability carrier can provide the necessary support and accommodations for employees. The Standard found that there was a 22% increase in employees’ use of workplace resources — including referrals to an employee assistance program or employee benefits program that specifically support mental health conditions — when a disability carrier was involved in an employee’s return-to-work or stay-at-work plan.

“Given that most employers currently offer limited support for mental health issues, these conditions can manifest and create a vicious cycle for employers,” Jolivet said. “Creating a collaborative approach to manage disability within an organization can help save time and money, as accommodations can help boost an employee’s overall health and productivity. This teamwork between HR managers, direct supervisors and disability carriers can ensure employees stay productive, healthy and happy at work."