Ideal Outcomes

Workplace Wellness: Supporting Employee Mental Health is a Win-Win

by Jason Richmond, CEO and Chief Culture Officer at Ideal Outcomes, Inc.

If you dread going to work every day, overwhelmed with feelings of anxiety, depression, or burnout—you’re not alone.

Statistics from various surveys are shocking:

  • 36% of full-time employees say their mental health has suffered because of work, according to the “2024 NAMI Workplace Mental Health Poll” conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Health.
  • 47% of employees and 66% of CEOs in a Headspace 2024 “Workforce State of Mind” survey of 2,000 workers report their stress mostly comes from work, rather than from their personal lives.
  • 77% of employees surveyed by Headspace say that work stress has negatively impacted their physical health.
  • 71% say it caused a personal relationship to end.

Are employers doing anything to help? Not as much as they should. While 83% of employees in the NAMI poll agree mental health and well-being training is important in creating a positive workplace culture only 53% of their employers provide training. And 7 in 20 senior-level employees report they’ve not been trained how to talk to their team about mental health struggles.

A key challenge is that employees who are less comfortable talking about their mental health at work are those who are more likely to suffer burnout and mental health challenges. As the month of May is Mental Health Awareness Month it’s a good time to spotlight the issue, especially at work where we spend a good chunk of our day.

Company leaders need to pay attention since the impact of poor mental health on the workplace includes increased absenteeism, reduced employee engagement, lowered productivity, and heightened healthcare costs.

Conversely, workplaces that actively promote and support mental health are likely to see enhanced employee satisfaction, improved morale, and a more vibrant company culture. Who wouldn’t want that?

Challenges Faced By Employees

Work-related stress, anxiety, and depression are among the most common mental health issues faced by employees today. These problems often stem from or are intensified by high workloads, short deadlines, and the pressure to perform. Additionally, a lack of adequate support from management and the stigma attached to mental health problems can lead employees to suffer in silence rather than seeking the help they need.

The culture of “presenteeism,” where employees come to work despite not being mentally well, further exacerbates these issues, often leading to a decrease in productivity and an increase in errors. Furthermore, the remote work environment, which has become more prevalent since the pandemic, presents new challenges including isolation and the blurring of lines between work and home life, which can also impact mental well-being.

Proactive Strategies for Employers

Recognizing the challenges is only the first step; acting on them is critical. Employers can adopt several strategies to support mental health in the workplace:

Promote Work-Life Balance

Mix it up with policies that allow flexible working hours, remote working options, and sufficient time off. Encourage all workers to have firm non-working hours and to not answer emails during personal time. Recognize the signs of burnout and encourage staff to take breaks and vacations to relax and recharge.

Provide Resources and Training

Launch regular training sessions to educate employees and managers about mental health. This can include training on recognizing the signs of mental distress, managing stress, and promoting resilience. Additionally, provide access to professional mental health services, such as counseling and therapy, through comprehensive Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs).

Cultivate a Supportive Culture

It’s okay to talk! Develop a culture where mental health issues are not stigmatized but are openly discussed. This could include regular mental health awareness events, testimonials from senior leaders about their own experiences with mental health, and regular communication from the top down emphasizing its importance.

Many men are often reluctant to express their feelings notes Morra Aarons-Mele, author of the excellent book The Anxious Achiever: Turn Your Biggest Fears Into Tour Leadership Superpower, “It’s crucial to make sure men are visible and talking. If your mental health programs skew too female, invite men in!” She jokes that having what she calls “manvangelists” discuss mental health is vital to decode the gender bias of emotions at work.

Regular Employee Check-Ins

Implement regular one-on-one check-ins between employees and their managers to discuss general well-being in addition to work performance. These check-ins can provide a safe space for employees to discuss any mental health concerns and for managers to offer support.

Find Meaning and Purpose in Work

Share with employees a superb article by HelpGuide editors Lawrence Robinson and Melinda Smith. Among many suggestions they make the point that even if an employee don’t love their job, they can still find ways to derive meaning and purpose from the work that they do. “Try to focus on how your work helps others, for example, provides an important product or service, or the relationships you enjoy with your coworkers. Looking for opportunities to get more training or take job-related classes can also help you to find more meaning in your work.”

Resources and Support

For additional support and information, several sources are available:

A Great Time to Take Action

Mental Health Awareness Month is a call to action for all stakeholders in the workplace to recognize and address mental health proactively. It’s a time to reflect on how mental health is integral to overall health and how  a supportive working environment can contribute significantly to an organization’s success. As we continue to navigate the complexities of modern work environments, let us commit to making mental health a priority—not just in May but throughout the entire year.