How to Prioritize Employee Mental Health

Nov 1, 2023

The workplace can be a stressful environment. In addition to being under constant pressure to perform at their best and meet deadlines, employees also have to deal with a near-constant state of uncertainty and job insecurity (especially in the wake of widespread layoffs in early 2023). Today’s workers feel more anxious, depressed, and burnt out than ever before.


Mental health problems can have a negative impact on employees’ job performance, as well as their physical health. They can also lead to absenteeism and high turnover rates. Mental health problems are clearly a major issue in the workplace, but they are often overlooked. In order to create a healthy and productive workplace, employers need to prioritize their employees’ mental health.


The Importance of Employee Well-being

Mental health issues in the workplace can be draining, both financially and emotionally. They can lead employees to become disengaged from their work and suffer from burnout, which can lead to decreased productivity, higher turnover, and increased medical costs—all of which have a negative impact on a company’s bottom line.


To combat these issues, employers must prioritize employee well-being by implementing policies that protect and promote mental health. Such strategies can include holding regular team meetings to discuss employee mental health, offering mental health resources to employees, and providing mental health education to managers and employees. In addition, employers should strive to create an open and trust-filled environment that is a safe space for employees to discuss their mental health with managers and colleagues. Managers should also aim to foster a work environment that promotes engagement and healthy work-life balance.



How to Create a Mentally Healthy Workplace

Feeling happy and content at work is crucial to feeling happiness in life. (This is something people have long known, but the COVID-19 pandemic really drove this point home.) Here are seven things organizations can do right now to support the mental health of their employees.


Survey employees about mental health in the workplace. As the saying goes, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” Many companies implement stress management programs (and that’s a good start) but fail to reach out to employees to ask them about what stresses they are actually managing while at work. This information can reveal patterns that enable leaders to better gauge the energy and dynamic of their teams and identify interventions that can have a collective positive impact.


Help employees reduce (and not just manage) stress. After evaluating the main stressors in the workplace, companies should consider implementing measures to reduce them, such as flexible hours or permanently hybrid or virtual work arrangements to help people juggle work and life. If resources are an issue, managers should do whatever they can to free some up (staff up, for example, or contract out, add budget, reprioritize, or put some projects on hold), because nothing is more important than the health and well-being of an organization’s employees.


Take care of employees by watching their hours. Although burning the midnight oil seems noble and can get results in the short term, the long-term result is burnout. People need to rest, recharge, and connect with loved ones to stay mentally sound, so managers should make sure that long hours aren’t a regular occurrence.


Make time for fun and empower meaningful connection. Whether it’s playing a game or just connecting over chat, having fun with coworkers increases productivity and builds trust. It also relieves stress by forcing a cognitive shift in how stressors are viewed and creates positive emotional responses. Fostering more meaningful workplace connections at all scales (one on one, among teams, across departments or divisions, etc.) enables people to understand each other better and work together more effectively. To do this easily and quickly, some organizations are leveraging add-ons to the communication tools they’re already using every day (e-mail, messaging apps, virtual meeting software, etc.) to surface actionable communication, collaboration, and inclusion tips, as well as key insights around influencing, motivating, and collaborating.


Keep an eye out for depression. Although “depression costs employers an estimated $44 billion each year in lost productivity,” few employers train their managers on how to recognize depression and how to intervene to help with employee care.[1] Considering that treating depression can save companies tremendous amounts of money annually, learning to take care of employees is well worth the effort.


Provide support and employee care. Organizations must provide adequate benefit coverage for mental health services (with multiple options, such as individual and couples counseling as well as group therapy). They should offer an employee assistance program (EAP) that provides access to qualified mental health therapists and a variety of services to help employees manage their lives. A company that is unable to implement an EAP should at least compile a resource list of helpful and relevant software and services that its employees can use.


Bring it all together. Companies should create and share with employees written mental health philosophy and policy statements. Some organizations are taking this action to open up the conversation and give team members the support they deserve from their employers. Any communication policy around mental health should include the following major elements:

  • This part lets everyone know that it’s okay to disclose (or not disclose) a mental illness at work and to ask for help.
  • This clear and comprehensive explanation of benefits ensures that employees know what resources are available to them.
  • This section details how employees can ask for reasonable accommodations for a mental health condition and explains that their information will be kept confidential.



The Benefits of a Mentally Healthy Workplace

The positive effects of a mentally healthy workplace go beyond the individual employee. By providing support and resources to maintain employees’ mental health, businesses can create a more collaborative and stress-free work environment. This will boost morale, productivity, and creativity throughout the entire organization. Employers who prioritize employee mental health and well-being can also benefit from an enhanced reputation and better staff recruitment and retention rates.


Ultimately, good mental health is integral to business success. By creating a mentally healthy workplace, employers can ensure that their employees have the resources and support they need to reach their full potential. By recognizing the importance of mental health and well-being in the workplace, employers can create happier, more positive, and more productive environments for their employees. This will ultimately lead to increased productivity and a healthier bottom line.

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