Rolling out mental health benefits outside open enrollment

Koa Health
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How to weigh the pros and cons for your organization

At many organizations, HR leaders wait until Q4—open enrollment—to roll out new employee benefits. But this is a hectic time of year for both HR teams and employees, and new benefits don’t get the attention they need and deserve. This is particularly a cause for concern when it comes to mental health benefits. Demand for mental health services is at an all-time high and 62% of workers report feeling highly stressed and fatigued.  If new mental health benefits are overlooked amid the end-of-year push, it’s more than likely that they won’t have a realistic chance to reach the people who need them most.

Employees’ awareness of and appreciation of health support in the workplace is associated with productivity gains,  but only 19% said they used their employer-sponsored mental healthcare benefits in 2022. And with fewer than 4 in 10 (37%) employees using their benefits for any preventive care,  it’s likely that your people are already at the point of burnout and feeling depressed or anxious before they even seek support.

The need for a new approach to mental health benefits

Organizations everywhere are aware of the need for mental health support and a change in their current approach. In 2024, 53%  of organizations view mental health as a priority and 74%  are committed to increasing or reallocating their mental health budget to meet the needs of their employees. But if employees don’t have access to the right mental health benefits for their unique needs until open enrollment, it’s unlikely that individuals or organizations will reap the rewards in 2024. So why wait until the busiest time of year to add the mental health services your employees need today?

Your employees aren’t waiting for open enrollment to start to decide if they’ll stay with your organization or accept a position somewhere new. Potential new hires will also evaluate your offer of employment on the benefits available now, not those that may become available months down the line. Investing in new employee benefits outside of open enrollment not only eases some of the burden during this busy time of year—it also provides an opportunity to support your workforce’s wellbeing and health and boost loyalty and motivation.

The benefits of an off-cycle rollout strategy for mental health

An off-cycle rollout strategy has significant, well, benefits for your organization, which is especially true for employee mental health offerings. Off-cycle benefits rollouts make it possible for HR teams to select the time of year that works best for your organization (and your people).

Delaying the implementation of the needed mental health services until open enrollment can put your employees and your organization at risk, as people dealing with challenges without support reach a crisis point, negatively impacting their personal and professional lives, and your bottom line. The majority of employees (64%) struggle with mental health issues, with nearly half (45%) noting that this causes them to lose more than 5 hours  of working time each week and posing risks to their physical health  and overall wellbeing. As a result, 200 million workdays are lost due to mental health conditions each year, costing up to $16.8 billion  in employee productivity.

And when it comes to containing costs and optimizing value on investment, benefits utilization and uptake are key. Introducing new offerings during open enrollment doesn’t allow the opportunity for a focused communication strategy or a multi-phase rollout that could increase uptake. With an off-cycle enrollment period, you’ve also got more room to negotiate with service providers on important factors like price, personalization, EAP integration, and more.

At Koa Health, we understand the importance of being able to configure services to align with your organization’s priorities and timelines and delivering the right services at the right time to your employees. We’ll partner with your in-house team to empower them to roll out your new mental health benefits when and how it works best for your organization.

See more about why an off-cycle rollout is a smart business decision in our quick read, ‘Introducing mental health benefits outside of open enrollment.’

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Koa Health

The Team @ Koa Health

Our diverse team of developers, researchers, psychologists and behavioral health experts work together to create practical, thought-provoking content to accompany our range of digital therapeutics.