As a mark to the end of summer, The Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC) hosted their Annual Conference in the beautiful (and beachy) San Diego! The conference is in a different city every year, and it was refreshing being by the water this time. DMEC is one of the leading organizations in the absence and paid leave landscape; their conference brings together stakeholders from all across the industry to connect and discuss trends and best practices.

Here are some buzzworthy topics I wanted to share from the conference:

1) Mental Health Support

Although the demand for employer support for mental health and wellbeing services may not be as high as it was during the COVID-19 pandemic, it remained a hot button topic at this year’s conference. As mental health support solidifies its place in the benefits industry, employers are looking at innovative ways to stand out and cut costs. Some related presentations I found insightful include:

-The very first session of the conference, “A Mental Health Culture Shift: Addressing It from the Top Down,” brought together representatives from multiple health systems to discuss the importance of developing mental health resources that work for employees of all levels.

– In the presentation, “The Echo Pandemic: Mental Health, Lost Time, and Benefits Spend,” the speaker reviewed the ROI impact of preventative wellbeing solutions on benefits spend and workplace culture.

In a one-of-a-kind presentation, a licensed psychologist reviewed “Regulated Psychedelics for Mental Health & What You Need to Know.” As psychedelic therapies are expected to be approved in 2023-2024 for PTSD treatment, this session reviewed how this will impact employers and their mental health offerings.

2) Compliance Strategies

It seems like at every conference and event I attend, compliance is top of mind for employers across the nation. With shifting national, state, and local regulations, it can be difficult to stay compliant while satisfying a dispersed workforce. Here are some noteworthy sessions related to compliance:

3) Returning to the Office/WFH Approaches

As the worst of the pandemic echoes behind us, many employers are trying to revert to tradition and get people back in the office (or find some middle ground). Decisions made regarding this dynamic will lay the foundation for employee culture and how employers approach leave management. Below are some relevant presentations I wanted to highlight:

– Experts discussed “Transitional Return-to-Work Programs that Last,” this included the cost benefits of these programs and tactics to educate and motivate front-line managers.

– A representative from Headversity, provided tips and resources to help empower future generations of women leaders. This included addressing accommodations that support the work-life balance of female employees.

4) Leveraging Tech

Tech in the absence and disability space continues to evolve with the introduction of new innovations and tools that can help create efficiencies and drive best practices. Even building on existing tools and systems can help us better understand current patterns and trends. Here are some presentations I found most insightful:

– In an interactive session with DMEC’s CEO, Terri Rhodes, Spring’s Jackie Myers and me, the attendees engaged in DMEC Benchmarking Jeopardy, which spotlighted DMEC’s new benchmarking platform that Spring helped build, which will give users an easy and user-friendly way to compare and contrast absence management policies and procedures.

– My colleague Marcy Updike and I reviewed survey data that analyzed the monetary value of flexible time off programs and their potential impact on recruiting and retention during our session, “The Value of Workforce Flexibility: Impact & Tradeoffs.

– Representatives from three different absence software companies discussed “Key Considerations for Selecting & Implementing Software as a Solution.” They reviewed employee considerations for implementing absence software and tips for managing day-to-day operations.

As a regular attendee and partner of DMEC, I have to say this may have been my favorite destination to date! As we approach the end of summer, it was great enjoying a few days of sunny weather. Throughout the busy few days, the Spring team and I had a great time reconnecting with industry leaders and deepening our knowledge of innovations in the leave management space. We are excited to see what next year’s conference has in store for us!