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A Step-by-Step Guide to Support Employee Mental Health and Well-Being

Principal® Mental Health and Well-Being Series

A Step-by-Step Guide to Support Employee Mental Health and Well-Being

Principal® Mental Health and Well-Being Series

Published 05-18-22

Submitted by Principal Financial Group, Inc.

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Originally published on

Pandemic turmoil, coupled with a painstakingly gradual return to more normal routines, has taken a toll on our collective mental health.

Dr. Steven E. Pratt, senior medical director for Magellan Healthcare, says the managed health care company (providing services to many Principal® clients) felt that toll on workers nationwide early in the pandemic. Magellan saw a 42% increase in members seeking phone or videoconference coaching—mostly for managing stress and staying motivated—through its employee assistance program (EAP) in 2020 compared to 2019.1

“The pandemic lasted longer than probably anyone anticipated, on top of political turmoil in America and war abroad,” Pratt says. “The ongoing level of stress, and the chronic nature of that stress, continue to amplify concerns about mental health.”

In one six-month stretch, the percentage of adults in the United States with symptoms of anxiety or depression surged from 36% to 42%—the most drastic increases among those ages 18 to 29.2

But employers are responding accordingly: Seventy-four percent of business leaders surveyed in March 2021 agreed that mental health and well-being offerings are important for employees, according to our Principal Financial Well-Being IndexSM. And the trend continued in an October 2021 Well-Being Index survey.

42% of U.S. adults reported recent symptoms of anxiety or depression in 2021.2

Employers are adding these benefits with good reason. Beyond creating a supportive work environment, employee mental health benefits can affect a business’s bottom line. A 2018 Tufts Medical Center study (PDF) showed that people suffering both mental and physical disorders can double or triple health care costs.

“For many, if not most, employers, the single most expensive category of health problems in their companies isn’t heart disease, cancer, or musculoskeletal illness, but mental disorders,” the study concludes. (And that was before the pandemic.)

You may wonder: As a business leader, how do I support employees’ mental health at work?

We're here to help you answer that question—and maintain business productivity—with a series of short articles focusing on five main categories where employers can make a difference with employee mental health and well-being.

1. How to get more value from your EAP (employee assistance program)

Even businesses with an EAP may not realize all the well-being resources they can access through its services. See if you’re maximizing your program or can benefit by adding EAP access.

2. How to ease employee stress over world events

The pandemic and other world issues are out of your control, but you can take proactive steps to reassure employees about external factors that may intrude on the workplace.

3. How to reduce employee stress in the workplace

Widespread remote work has introduced conveniences and complications, while collaboration and teambuilding also have been challenged. Get ideas on mental-health support for specific types of workers, as well as the role physical exercise plays in employee mental health.

4. How to help employees cope with family stress (without meddling)

Balancing the professional and personal has gotten trickier for millions of American workers—for instance, juggling caregiving with their careers. Explore everything from telehealth to “reflective listening.”

5. How to encourage employee financial wellness

In volatile times, good financial education and reassurance about long-term retirement savings strategies, portfolios, and other aspects of personal budgeting can help remove money as an extra worry that only compounds stress.

Millennials push mental-health awareness

There’s been a generational shift in more awareness of mental health and an openness to talk about it and pursue treatment—even at work.

Twice as many millennials as baby boomers believe it’s important for their workplace to support mental health, with millennials also far likelier to know their company’s procedure for enlisting help.3

What's next

Want to talk more in depth about employee mental health resources, employee benefits, and your business? Consult your financial professional, or we can help you find one in your area.

Data from Magellan Healthcare, October 2020.
During August 2020–February 2021, the percentage of adults with recent symptoms of an anxiety or depressive disorder increased from 36.4% to 41.5%. “Symptoms of Anxiety or Depressive Disorder and Use of Mental Health Care Among Adults During the COVID-19 Pandemic—United States, August 2020–February 2021,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, April 2021.
3 Mind Share Partners’ Mental Health at Work 2019 Report.

Magellan Healthcare is not an affiliate of any company of the Principal Financial Group®. Links are provided for a courtesy only. Principal does not endorse or recommend any specific vendors.

This information is intended to be educational in nature and is not intended to be taken as a recommendation. 

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Principal Financial Group, Inc.

Principal Financial Group, Inc.

Principal Financial Group® (Nasdaq: PFG) is a global financial company with 18,500 employees1 passionate about improving the wealth and well-being of people and businesses. In business for more than 140 years, we’re helping more than 51 million customers1 plan, protect, invest, and retire, while working to support the communities where we do business, and build a diverse, inclusive workforce. Principal® is proud to be recognized as one of America’s 100 Most Sustainable Companies2, a member of the Bloomberg Gender Equality Index, and a Top 10 “Best Places to Work in Money Management3.” Learn more about Principal and our commitment to building a better future at

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