A senior woman and her daughter sit outside on a sunny day as they talk about her cancer and the progression of her treatments. They are both dressed casually as they enjoy the visit together in the fresh air.
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A partnership providing a new wellness benefit to employees has led to increased productivity for one senior living provider.

Benchmark Senior Living, based in Massachusetts, partnered with Spring Health, a virtual mental health service, to provide personalized care, dedicated support, confidential therapy, medication management and family care to all of its employees and their dependents. Through the program, the company said it is working to bring employee mental health to the forefront and ensure employees “feel happy, comfortable and safe in their jobs.”

Founder, Chairman and CEO Tom Grape said that Benchmark had a variety of programs and apps in place to promote physical health, but the pandemic demonstrated a need to do more to support mental health, something that became evident during recurring town hall meetings and employee satisfaction surveys.

“While touring communities shortly after the peak of the pandemic, we found one thing to be clear: Benchmark associates are resilient caregivers who oftentimes give their all to others, leaving little to care for themselves,” Grape told McKnight’s Senior Living. “It was important to help them prioritize their own well-being just as much as they prioritize the care of our residents.”

Benchmark pointed to a 2021 KFF / Washington Post Frontline Health Care Workers Survey in which 47% of assisted living and nursing home workers reported feeling anxious due to the stresses of the pandemic. More than half (58%) of senior living and nursing home employees taking the survey also said that their employers were “falling short in supporting them. With a 50% turnover rate in the industry, polled direct care workers cited a need for increased focus on employee wellness and mental health. 

The top priority of the Benchmark–Spring Health partnership, Grape said, is to ensure that Benchmark employees receive the mental health support they need. In turn, he said, he believes that the support will help increase retention, recruitment and associate satisfaction numbers. 

“Healthcare workers have historically been vulnerable to mental health challenges — a reality worsened by the pandemic,” he said. “We want our associates to know it’s OK to not be OK; and no matter what, Benchmark is there to give them the support they need.”

Employees participate in mental health benefit

To date, almost 400 Benchmark employees have enrolled in different aspects of the program, which launched Nov. 1, and 90% of members that engage in the platform are using their original healthcare providers, according to the organization. 

“Our goal with this program is to ensure our associates know they are appreciated and supported, and that help is available,” Benchmark Senior Director of Total Rewards & Analytics Tracey Lonnqvist told McKnight’s Senior Living. “It is heartwarming for us to see so many of our associates recognize the importance of mental health and take action in working on theirs.”

Spring Health coaches, therapists and counselor visits can be virtual or in person, Lonnqvist said. Spring Health also offers on-site critical incident services when counseling might be needed on a broader scale — a benefit Benchmark has used five times in its communities to date.

Among the benefits, employees can take an online mental health assessment to find the right care and track their progress. A care navigator who is a licensed clinician helps employees find the right therapist, sets appointments, provides guidance and offers emotional support. Spring Health’s provider network also provides a diversity of therapists across specialty, gender, race, LGBTQ+ and language preferences.

Lonnqvist said that Benchmark has seen the effects that the program has had, not only in the mindset of so many while at work, but also in overall productivity levels. Spring Health shared that, on average, employees reported feeling better within three days of meeting with a therapist and that, overall, they felt more productive and focused at work.

“Associates can voluntarily provide feedback on after-care assessments and surveys, which allow us to understand how it improves their well-being,” Lonnqvist said. “We anticipate more positive outcomes, as the program is only in month six of existence at Benchmark.”