Benefits news you may have missed: March 22-26

‘Now is not the time’ for employers to back off mental health focus: After a grueling year of COVID-19–and its damaging effect on workers’ collective emotional state–there is some positive news on the mental health front. Some indicators of employees’ mental health are measuring equal to or better than before the pandemic, according to new research from Total Brain’s Mental Health Index. But experts warn there was a mental health crisis even before the virus hit the United States, and employers must remain attentive and responsive to workers’ behavioral needs to continue to ebb the tide. Read more here.

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How to help workers struggling after the nation’s mass shootings: The pair of mass shootings in the U.S. over the past week–the Kroger shooting in Boulder, Colorado, and the spa killings in Atlanta–are the latest disturbing events for Americans in a year defined by a pandemic, economic uncertainty and racial and political unrest. And it’s all contributing to employees’ worsening mental health and making employers think about how they can help struggling employees. In short, experts say, company and HR leaders should check in on their workers and encourage them to prioritize their mental wellbeing during times of crisis and turmoil. Here are six ways company and HR leaders can help employees in wake of the two recent mass shootings. Read more here.

Prince Harry joins BetterUp as growth in mental health tech surges: Prince Harry is joining the burgeoning HR mental health space, signaling the growing popularity of technology solutions to help improve employees’ mental health. The Duke of Sussex is now chief impact officer of BetterUp, which provides digital coaching and mental health services for employees and works with companies including Hilton and Google. Read more here.

Can 200 employers spark a federal leave mandate? Close to 200 employers– including Etsy, Levi Strauss & Co. and Pinterest–are calling on lawmakers to enact federal paid family leave, as companies enter the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic that shed light on inadequacies in paid family and medical leave and programs for caregivers in the workforce. Read more here.

What Facebook is doing to help employees who are caregivers: When Lisa Poon joined Facebook as the company’s senior benefits manager five years ago, the social media company had about 15,000 employees. That number has since ballooned to nearly 60,000 workers across the globe, and the needs of employees have grown, too–especially when it comes to caregiving. Read more here.

In-depth: 7 big lessons from Spring HR Tech: It’s undoubtedly been one of the hardest years in history for organizations, and for HR leaders tasked with guiding companies and employees during the pandemic that has impacted nearly every facet of the workplace. But it’s also been one of most transformative years in history. While COVID-19 has tested and challenged organizations in unimaginable ways, it’s also given leaders an opportunity to change old ways of thinking and to innovate, said industry experts, HR executives and analysts during HRE’s Spring HR Technology Conference & Exposition, held virtually March 16-19. Here are some of the biggest takeaways from the event. Read more here.

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Cappelli: What the Goldman Sachs scandal can teach about culture: The press on both sides of the Atlantic was abuzz this past week about an internal document from Goldman Sachs, apparently leaked to many outlets, describing overworked junior analysts who are at the point of exhaustion. Lots of tut-tutting about what has gone wrong in a system that drives these young people to physical and mental health problems. Read more here.

Soundbite: How a ‘surge of stressors’ is draining workers: “The isolating quarantines, health anxiety and stream of disturbing stories of hate and violence in the headlines are all creating a surge of stressors that stake up and slowly drain employees’ mental and emotional capacity to cope,” says Carrie Bevis, managing director of communities and partnerships at research firm i4cp. Read more here.

How one company hopes to optimize unused paid leave: Even before 2020, millions of American workers–55% of them, according to one study–were leaving millions of paid vacation days on the table each year. U.S. companies were carrying $224 billion in liability for that unused PTO, according to a study by Oxford Economics, and burnout, anxiety, on-the-job injuries, financial worries and other stressors were on the rise. With the COVID-19 pandemic, those metrics only worsened and organizations’ unused PTO liabilities grew to more than $300 billion, according to PTO Genius co-founder Adam Gordon. Read more here.

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Kathryn Mayer
Kathryn Mayer is HRE’s former benefits editor and chair of the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. She has covered benefits for the better part of a decade, and her stories have won multiple awards, including a Jesse H. Neal Award and honors from the American Society of Business Publication Editors and the National Federation of Press Women. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Denver.