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An Analysis of the UK and US on the Perceived Adequacy of Workplace Mental Health Programs
Julia Woods, Depts. of Business and Psychology, with Dr Deborah DiazGranados, VCU School of Medicine
Research examining employee provided health benefits typically concentrate on evaluating a program’s impact on organizational outcomes such as retention, absenteeism, presenteeism, and cost-effectiveness (Cuffel, Goldman, and Schlesinger, 1999; Munz & Kohler, 1997). The typical methods used for evaluation of these programs tend to be quantitative in nature, however, qualitative methods could help organizations better understand how its employees react to and view such programs. This paper explores employee’s perceptions of health benefits provided by employers, specifically mental health programs, within the United Kingdom and the United States. These countries were chosen because of perceived similarities in culture, labor markets, views of the parity of mental and physical health care, and focus on individual's rights. A review and analysis of major categories of mental health programs were conducted to best capture the cultural context, effectiveness, and employee perception of employee health benefits. The search for literature primarily included online searches of the following databases (e.g., Google Scholar, PsychINFO, PubMed, PsycNET) for literature published between 1995 and 2019. The following key terms were used in different combinations: Mental health programs, mental health benefits, adequacy, employer-provided programs, employee satisfaction, employee perception, either the United Kingdom or the United States. In addition, to highlight a few common employer-provided mental health benefits a targeted search was done for specific benefits (e.g., employee assistance programs, workplace counseling, cognitive behavior therapy, mental health insurance/coverage, and stress management interventions) in combination with the previously listed terms. The initial search resulted in eight publications that were then used for a manual secondary search of reference lists which resulted in three additional publications that were used for the review. Results of the analysis of sources indicate that employer-provided benefits improved employee’s mental well-being, which in turn impacted their work. Interestingly, one study conducted by Elliot and Williams (2002) reported comments like “I haven’t had any panic attacks since counseling ended,” and “my workload is now being dealt with more quickly” by counseling clients. Qualitative reports such as these are particularly interesting when trying to understand how employees view their work after they conclude a mental health program. Future research should consider examining questions such as: 1) what is the overall and longitudinal impact on employee well-being from employer-provided mental health benefits, 2) how do employer-provided mental health programs influence personal well-being, and how does an employee’s personal well-being in turn influence employee productivity, and 3) how do cultural differences and a country’s approach to mental health care inform the employee’s availability/accessibility to mental health care at work.
Deborah DiazGranados, Ph.D.
Virginia Commonwealth University. Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program
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