Prudential trains managers in mental health strategy

With so many changes over the last few years, benefit leaders have had to stay on their toes. 

Andrew Gregg, VP of employee benefits at Prudential, says he’s learned more about the importance of employee well-being since the pandemic than he has over the course of his decades-long career. Especially when it comes to supporting mental health, Gregg says he’s learned to use “both sides of the brain” to find solutions and offer meaningful support. 

“We might use one side of our brain more than the other as we look at the financial components, but of course, there’s also a very human component,” Gregg says. “I just feel fortunate to be able to use both sides of the brain, especially as well-being is showing up at the top of the list.” 

Read more: Work is the main source of mental health strain in 2023

Gregg says Prudential has been working diligently to address the mental health and well-being of their 41,000-person workforce: that involves a partnership with mental health provider Lyra, as well as continuous leadership training to help identify employee needs and combat mental health stigma. 

Additionally, the company has instituted recharge days and meeting-free Fridays to help people balance their work responsibilities and maintain healthy balance. Gregg gets into the details and shares what else they have in store this year. 

How has Prudential’s approach to mental well-being changed over the last three years?  
Prudential has a very strong culture around employee well-being, and even pre-pandemic, had been supporting well-being with things like on-site therapy or manager training. But with the pandemic, we set out to have a clearer strategy around mental well-being, and really worked cross-functionally to drive more of an enterprise strategy to improve the culture, reduce stigma, raise awareness, and help leaders be as empathetic as possible, because this is what is going to be really important in getting this right. 

We certainly have our health plan network of mental health support. But I will tell you that we were a little disappointed in how the health carriers have established a network. There’s a huge gap in this country between the supply and the demand, and the carrier networks are woefully not carrying the load. So we’ve augmented our health network with Lyra as our EAP vendor, and offer 10 free visits a year. We also have coaching, we’ve got telehealth, we’re continuing to do webinars, we’re continuing to support the business. But I think getting this right will take a village going forward.  

Prudential’s VP of employee benefits, Andrew Gregg

How important is leadership involvement in improving outcomes and increasing engagement?
We’re doing more manager training and employee training about awareness around mental well-being, and refreshing employee communications around how they can get access and seek that help. I think the days of more stoic leaders might not be what people are looking to experience in the new world. I think they want to see a company and its leadership and managers just acknowledge and feel comfortable expressing their issues and then have their colleagues work with them.  

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What I try to do is just listen carefully to their needs, as well as things like less after-hours emails, taking PTO really seriously — these are simple things, but they matter. I think we are very fortunate in our ability to work remotely and I try to take that into consideration and allow people the level of flexibility they need to do their work based on what they desire.

You mentioned the gap between supply and demand when it comes to mental health care — what benefits are you turning to address that? 
Through our partnership with Lyra, they can go out and reach therapists who are not part of a broad network. If they meet the various criteria of Lyra’s quality scores, they will help in administering their office, and pay them more than what the carriers pay. That really broadened the network, and lowered the cost. We also have TelaDoc that does telehealth, and we also use Vida Health for lifestyle coaching, nutrition and diet, things of that nature, and even into some aspects of mental health.

Read more: How technology can help solve the mental health crisis 

We rolled out a lifestyle spending account in the middle of last year, which was a $1,000 taxable award that you could use for well-being purposes — you buy a treadmill, you can get reimbursed, things like that. We also have challenges where you can accumulate money into that lifestyle account. So we’re watching as that settles in, but the participation has been huge. 

Looking ahead, what are you focusing on specifically this year to invest in around employee well-being? 
We’re continuing to evolve our mental health strategy — we just rolled out some employee training and we’ve had good participation in those. We’ve done more webinars with storytelling, which is a very meaningful and impactful way to understand, appreciate and raise awareness and show how just lending a hand can help people. If we want to differentiate as a company, getting the well-being space right will make a difference in attracting and retaining employees in the future. I believe that always, but now so more than ever. 

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