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Why a Company's Health and Wellbeing Program is an Essential Part of Its Long-Term Success

By Emily Parlapiano, Head of Strategic Partnerships and Programs, CEO Investor Forum, CECP

Title:  Why a Company’s Health and Wellbeing Program is an Essential Part of Its Long-Term Success

May marks the start of Mental Health Awareness Month and as we reflect on the crisis impacting our communities and our economy, we’re faced with the prospect that the isolation, fear, and loss that April showered us with will not dissipate without expanded support from the corporate sector. Companies have the opportunity to prepare for, and lead in, supporting the new mental health challenges this pandemic has amplified for our country’s most valuable stakeholder – our people. These effects are long-lasting, far-reaching, and will shape how we as a community recover.

With younger generations continuing to play a larger role in the economy, they have made it clear that above all, they grade companies by their purpose and role as a corporate citizen. This crisis is a moment they will look back on. They will consider what companies did to navigate the challenges, and how their moves benefited society as a whole and provided support to their employees when they needed it most. Action from the private sector is critical to America’s recovery because while not everyone will be infected by Covid-19, everyone is affected by it. This crisis is an opportunity for companies to lead and deliver lasting value that goes beyond their balance sheet.

Let’s look at the stats.

In the past six weeks a staggering 30 million people have filed for unemployment, representing nearly 20% of the country’s workforce. Those who remain employed have faced a myriad of transitions including a switch to remote work, with many learning to juggle childcare and homeschooling with little or no support.

A recent World Health Organization study cited an estimated $1TN in lost productivity every year as unsupported employees suffer from depression and anxiety. And while typically 1 in 5 adults in America experience a mental illness, this number is exacerbated by the current global crisis and is exemplified in the 40% increase in conversations on Crisis Text Line since the start of the pandemic. Texter’s on the platform have reported “experiencing heightened stress, anxiety, and depression – they’re using much stronger language, like scared, terrifying, devastating, panic, and fear,” says Crisis Text Line Cofounder and Chief Data Scientist Bob Filbin.

As CEO’s and senior leaders face extremely tough choices in laying off or furloughing their workforces or cutting other costs to save their companies, those impacted are feeling the repercussions. Data from the Pew Research Center shows that “people financially affected by the Covid-19 outbreak are experiencing more psychological distress than others.” And according to the American Psychological Association, companies that do not have systems in place to support the mental and physical wellbeing of their employees have higher turnover, lower productivity, and higher healthcare costs.

The bottom line is that the mental and emotional health of a company’s workforce is material to its business and whether companies respond by stepping up or standing back, their actions will be remembered by current and prospective employees alike.

At Chief Executives for Corporate Purpose, we’ve heard directly from companies on the changes happening within their organizations. One overarching sentiment is that corporations are experiencing a human-centered transformation, one that prioritizes people and purpose over short-term profit. More and more, we’ve also seen that investors are paying attention and rewarding companies that carry out employee-friendly practices.

While many companies rely solely on HR run Employee Assistance Plans (EAP), others have embedded mental health into their DNA such as EILEEN FISHER’s “Minute of Mindfulness”. The program was designed to meet the needs of employees where they are, and this company isn’t alone. It’s encouraging to see many leading companies stepping up to expand their offerings such as:

  • Virgin Group and Virgin Unite: working to support Crisis Text Line (US and Ireland), Shout (UK) and Kids Help Phone (Canada), which provide free, 24/7 support for anyone in a mental health crisis, all via text. 
  • Aetna, A CVS Company; Anthem, Inc.; Beacon Health Options; Centene Corporation; Cigna; Humana ; Optum; and UnitedHealthcare: collaborating on a first-of-its-kind Resource Hub to address mental health needs.

While each company is experiencing a different level of “luck”,  our team continues to “encourage those companies than can do more during these unprecedented times to do so by levering their core expertise and resources to meet the additional needs of their key stakeholders.” We believe that businesses can be a force for good in society, and in order to remain resilient, human capital management must be a core tenant in a company’s long-term business strategy. With purpose as a guiding principal, and through supporting the ongoing mental and emotional health of your workforce, we are confident that business will grow even stronger in the years to come.

Additional Resources for Corporate Leaders:

Is your company expanding mental health resources in response to coronavirus? Share your story and please let our team know how we can support you and your workforce by emailing