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Mental Health in the Workplace: What Can Be Done


Mental health is a huge concern all around the world. In the United States alone, one in five adults lives with a mental illness. That equated to 52.9 Americans in 2020. Additionally, 71% of adults also reported at least one symptom of stress. 

Because around 63% of Americans are an active part of the labor force, it’s easy to say that the workplace can present an excellent opportunity to improve the well-being of adults. For instance, workplace wellness programs can be implemented to identify people who may be at risk and connect them to appropriate support groups or provide treatment and management options. By helping workers address their mental health issues in the workplace, employers can also reduce health care costs both for their employees and their businesses.

In this post, your trusted HR consultants share some vital information on this topic:

How Mental Health Issues Affect Businesses and Their Employees

Mental health issues can negatively impact work performance. When employees suffer anxiety or depression, they can show more work-related stress, exhaustion, and anger. Here are some of its results:

Poor Productivity and Overall Job Performance

A lack of productivity can still happen with even the most dedicated employees who are affected by anxiety or other mental health issues. They can struggle with a lack of focus, which can lead to a number of issues in their work, such as a failure to complete tasks and poor attention to detail, as well as an inability to adhere to deadlines.

If you notice someone on your team who seems unusually dejected, is struggling to meet deadlines and performance metrics – there could be more than what’s on the surface, particularly if these individuals have a history of strong performance. Before reaching for the performance improvement plan, check in with them. We should always be approaching team members from a caring place to begin with, but find out if they’re struggling and see how your organization can support them. 

Poor Work Engagement

For employees who deal with these issues, work can feel incredibly stressful. They may feel hopeless, unmotivated, or are struggling with home life.. Just like productivity, this can lead to a lack of engagement in the workplace. Studies have even shown that individuals who are dealing with an anxiety disorder are 50% more likely to look for a different job than those who are not. Make sure you’re providing a psychological safe space, remove the stigma, and certainly put a halt to the toxicity at work. Now more than ever, teams need to be able to show up in a healthy and productive workplace. 

Difficulty in Communication

People who suffer from anxiety may be less likely to communicate with others in the office, which can lead to a number of issues. For instance, it can be more difficult for them to get their ideas across at meetings. As a result, they may not feel that they’re contributing to their teams as well as they could. This can alter the perception of their managers and co-workers, resulting in them feeling left out, isolated, and misunderstood.

The Role of Companies in Their Employees’ Mental Health

Employers are in a prime position to be able to help their employees with mental health disorders. When an employer leads by example, other workers may feel more comfortable about seeking help.

Improving Employee’s Mental Health with Workplace Wellness Programs

Because of the direct correlation between poor mental health and poor physical health, workplace wellness programs can be particularly useful in improving well-being.

Workplace wellness programs can be tailored to identify high-risk employees that may be struggling with mental health issues. For example, they can help identify employees who are not showing up to work regularly. They can also help identify employees that have limited or no sick leave, which can be a red flag for poor mental health.


It’s a relief to see so many people begin to share their stories, their struggles, and raise their hand publicly to pave a better path for others to do the same. I applaud all of those who’ve vulnerably spoken up and helped make this a priority in our society. 

I was speaking with other HR executives, we talked about our children and their struggles. We didn’t even share our own mental health concerns. If 100% of us were going through these challenges, we said “wow, imaging what our teams are dealing with that we don’t know about.” It was a startling to realize that we deal with benefits and carriers everyday and understand how to navigate the health care system and advocate for ourselves. Imagine what others more vulnerable are going through. 

I heard some tragic stories of employee suicide, particularly in the health care industry. Absolutely heartbreaking. 

Get to know your people. Show empathy and give one another grace because you likely have no idea what they might be going through in their personal lives. If you have a toxic personality at work who goes out of their way to make everyone miserable, halt the behavior immediately and at any cost – I guarantee it’s exponentially cheaper than the inherent damage they’re costing your business. This is serious, stomp it out now. Let’s be honest, hostile work environments are a breeding ground for mental health. So start there. Even if you can’t afford to invest in some of the wonderful mental health solutions out there, you can create a big impact by ensuring your organization isn’t the source for these issues. For example, Start taking steps to eliminate burnout. Stop rewarding people for putting in 80 hour workweeks and stop incessantly calling and emailing over the weekend and evenings, making folks feel like they need to jump from the dinner table with their families to answer your beckon call. 

Be well, be kind, take care of yourselves, and others. 

Check with your brokers and insurance carriers. They’re keely aware this is a top priority for clients, and likely have existing options or are adding solutions to existing plans. EAPs have always been wildly underutilized by staff, but there are some modern solutions coming to the marketplace. Remember, not everyone has health insurance through your workplace, and particularly if you employ global teams. Get creative, make sure everyone has accessible and affordable for support, whether they’ve asked for it or not. 

The statistics are startling and I suspect we’ve only scraped the surface in terms of data. Mental health is such a private, personal subject that while I’m optimistic that the need is being acknowledged, we have a ways to go. 

We know that team members can’t bring their best selves to work if they aren’t okay. If all the mentioned stats aren’t enough of a wake up call for employers, just check out all the bottom line financial impact when people are struggling. Understand also that mental health concerns may tread ADA, so there are also compliance risks to make sure you’re navigating properly. Make sure your managers are trained when they need to escalate concerns to HR or legal teams. 

Above all, demonstrate that you care.  


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