Apologies for Cross-Posting, Colleagues. Please consider developing research or submitting research to Group and Organization Management's Special Issue on the Use and Efficacy of Employer-Sponsored Mental Wellbeing Programs.
The full call is linked here
Deadlines, Submission, and Review Processes
Papers due from contributors September-October 2023
First round of blind review and editorial decisions December 2023
Revised manuscripts back from contributors March 2024
Second round of blind review and editorial decisions May 2024
Final recommendations for publication or reject decisions June 2024
Review by editors from G & OM August 2024
Publication of Special Issue TBD by journal editorial team
Objectives of the Special Issue. Although the pandemic centered around a physical disease, it accelerated a growing movement surrounding people's mental health and wellness. Mental health challenges have been steadily rising over time (Glick, 2018; Rascoe, 2022), but the pandemic ushered in an upsurge in the prevalence of these challenges (WHO, 2022). The rate of people who reported symptoms of anxiety/depression in March 2022 was almost three times the pre-pandemic level (NCHS, 2022). These challenges span the entire workforce, including adults of prime working age, but the incoming workforce-the youngest adults/teenagers-and the 'greying' workforce-employees working beyond expected retirement ages-are especially in need of mental wellbeing support (McCarthy et al., 2017; Staglin, 2022; U.S. Surgeon General, 2021).
The increased occurrence of mental health challenges raises people's expectations and need for programs to restore and protect their mental health. For example, although people spent 52% more on mental wellbeing resources in 2019 than in 2009 (Open Minds, 2020), the use of online screening tools for anxiety & depression leapt by more than 600% between January and September 2020 (Mental Health in America, 2020). Using and needing these resources more means employees expect their employers to provide these resources more frequently: 65% of polled employees reported they expect more mental health support (cf. their pre-pandemic expectations) from their employers (Workhuman, 2022).
In the unprecedented labor market, with record low unemployment (3.7%; BLS.gov), employers have faced immense pressure to be seen as an 'employer of choice'. Enhancing the employment brand by offering more contemporary benefits is an imperative to acquiring and retaining talent. Thus, employers are spending much more on these offerings to attract applicants and retain employees (Adams et al., 2021, SHRM 2022; Willis Towers Watson, 2022) and employees are increasingly expecting, even demanding, more support for mental wellbeing from employers (Adams et al., 2021)
However, these growing investments and expectations come without clear evidence from empirical research, which makes it difficult to know whether these investments are effective or providing a return on investment. Research on employee benefits, broadly, is severely lacking (Deadrick & Gibson, 2007; Markoulli et al., 2017) and has been for years (Dulebohn et al., 2009) despite the fact that employee benefits comprise nearly 30 percent of employee compensation costs (BLS.gov) Of the organizations who currently do not, or do not plan to, offer resources for their employees' mental wellbeing, more than 75% explained their reasoning as uncertainty about which benefit(s) to provide, not knowing how to find or choose a plan, and not having thought about it (SHRM, 2022). These findings indicate that employers greatly need guidance from the research community to help them make more informed decisions.
Although many organizations offer support for people with mental illness through programs like health insurance coverage (Reinert et al., 2021), accommodation/fair hiring policies (Maestas et al., 2019; McDowell & Fossey, 2015), and employee assistance programs (EAPs; Agovino, 2019), the modern world of mental wellbeing benefits is much larger, and not clearly defined. The very recent past has seen exponential growth of offerings like stress-reduction (Richardson & Rothstein, 2008), mindfulness (Allen et al., 2015), meditation apps (Jellyvision, 2022), AI-based chat therapy (Browne, 2020), and ecounseling (e.g., Talkspace; Hull et al., 2020). These offerings-from insurance to ecounseling-ostensibly benefit employee mental wellbeing, but next-to-no empirical research exists to inform stakeholders about the efficacy, best practices, or norms related to these benefits.
Thus, business leaders, HR professionals, and employees must navigate a very complicated domain, without the objective, guiding information to adequately meet the moment. In response to this surging investment in and conversation on employee mental wellbeing, and the anticipation of its sustained prominence in organizational life, we call for a Special Issue of research exclusively devoted to the organizational offerings that companies provide for their employees' mental wellbeing+. The objectives of this special issue are to:
1. Increase the discourse in empirical research on employee benefits relative to mental wellbeing
2. Assemble a body of empirical evidence to inform organization leaders and HR professionals in their decision-making regarding which mental wellbeing resources are appropriate for their employees
3. Fill the void in organization and HR literatures regarding an under-researched aspect of employee total rewards
4. Present the perspective of employees who seek out mental wellbeing resources from their employers
Research Questions of Interest
We welcome both qualitative and quantitative research designs and encourage interdisciplinary collaborations and perspectives. Researchers might consider conventional desired organizational outcomes (e.g., job performance, turnover, absenteeism, engagement, commitment), psychosocial outcomes (e.g., strain, burnout, perceived organizational support), or novel, less-studied outcomes that are related to the research questions at hand.
Given the underdeveloped state of research in the area, we welcome specifically any research that can reveal more on the (a) Prevalence; (b) Usage; (c) Efficacy of organizational offerings for mental wellbeing. Below is a list of guiding research questions, but submissions are not limited to these:
1. Prevalence: What are normative rates of available mental wellbeing offerings, by type, with attention to differences related to employer type, industry, employee type (FT, PT, gig/flex), combinations/packages of offerings (e.g., EAPs offered with vs. instead of stress-reduction training)
1. What are employees' attitudes/trust/preference levels towards different types of offerings, with attention to employee characteristics (e.g., values, demographics, intersection of multiple marginalized identities, personal history) as potential explanatory factors?
2. What role does broader (within organization or within geography) mental illness, or mental wellbeing, stigma play in employees' decisions to use/not use organizational offerings?
3. What interactive effects may exist among organization-wide variables (e.g., representation of traditionally marginalized groups, culture/climate) and individual-level, or team-level, variables in the usage or availability of programs?
4. What are the explanations/antecedents for employees' tendency to use, or not use, a given offering (e.g., evidence indicates only 2-5% of employees use their EAPs, what explains those who do v. those who do not?).
5. What methods/tactics do HR Practitioners use to communicate/educate about these offerings? This may include coordinating with leadership, enrollment, or advice demands (e.g., how do HR practitioners educate new employees on their EAPs, and the appropriate situation for using them?)
6. What information does each of the following stakeholder groups need to more choose or use these offerings: (a). leaders evaluating different offerings, (b) HR professionals administering these offerings, (c). employees using these offerings.
1. According to the type of offering, what do organizational leaders believe is the intended benefit/purpose of providing the offering?
2. How do these offerings aid in recruiting new employees? To what extent do individuals consider these mental wellbeing offerings when making employment decisions?
3. How do these offerings aid in retaining current employees? To what extent do these offerings affect the relationship between employees and the organization?
4. For each type of offering, what are relevant metrics organizations can/should use for determining the effects. An EAP, for example, may affect different outcomes than a meditation app for employees.
Special Issue Editors
1. Benjamin J. Thomas, Research Associate, Center for Leadership and Ethics, McCombs School of Business, University of Texas at Austin, Benjaminthomasphd@gmail.com
2. Patricia Meglich, Professor of Management, University of Nebraska Omaha, email@example.com
3. Dr. Kayla Follmer, Associate Professor of Management, West Virginia University, firstname.lastname@example.org, 304-293-5865
+We use the following definitions for this issue:
1. Mental wellbeing, which includes mental health (Galderisi et al., 2015), psychological wellbeing/health (Schmutte & Ryff, 1997), and mental wellness (Richardson, 2017). Any offering predominantly related to the improvement, protection, or adaptation to these concepts will be considered.
2. Organizational offerings, which include (a). policies (e.g., accommodation/fair hiring/training for managers to adapt to Mental Health Conditions; Corbière et al., 2015; Gayed et al., 2018; McDowell & Fossey, 2015), (b). benefits (e.g., EAPs, mental health service subsidies/programs; Agovino, 2019), and (c). programs (e.g., stress reduction, mindfulness; Bartlett et al., 2018; Richardson & Rothstein, 2008) predominantly implemented to improve, protect, or adapt to employee mental wellbeing (or its absence).
Although mental and physical wellbeing are inextricably linked, we limit our scope to organizational offerings solely or predominantly focused on mental wellbeing.
Benjamin Thomas, Ph.D. SHRM-CP
Center for Leadership and Ethics
University of Texas at Austin