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How to support mental health at work

We spend a third of our lives at work - that's 90,000 hours of our lifetime, according to Jessica Pryce-Jones' book “Happiness at Work”. Most of us probably spend more time with our colleagues and at work than with our loved ones. So, shouldn’t we try to be happy at work, happy with our work environment, and happy about what we are doing at work?

One underlying factor that affects our "happiness" at work is mental health. Numerous studies show that an individual's mental well-being affects their productivity, motivation, and overall job satisfaction. And poor mental health can lead to increased absenteeism, burnout, or, in severe cases, people leaving their jobs.  According to the World Health Organization, approximately 12 billion working days are lost each year due to depression and anxiety (WHO, 2022). So, it is clear that the work environment and the mental well-being of employees are inextricably linked, and when one is affected, the other is affected as well. It is therefore imperative that individuals and organizations recognize this link and take proactive steps to promote mental health in the workplace.

How exactly do mental health and work interplay?

Mental health and work are closely interconnected, and they can have a significant impact on each other.

On the one hand, work can have a positive effect on mental health by providing structure, routine, social connections, and a sense of accomplishment. Engaging in meaningful work can also boost self-esteem and confidence, fostering a sense of purpose and fulfillment. In addition, having a job can provide financial stability, which can alleviate stress and anxiety related to financial concerns.

On the other hand, working in a high-stress environment or in a job that is not fulfilling can have a negative impact on mental health. Chronic stress, long hours, and a lack of work-life balance can contribute to mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and burnout. Work-related issues can also aggravate or trigger existing mental health problems, which can affect an individual's ability to perform well at work, leading to reduced productivity, absenteeism, and ultimately job dissatisfaction. Other factors, such as discrimination, harassment, and bullying in the workplace, can also have a significant impact on mental wellbeing.

How can you support mental health at work?

There's no one-size-fits-all answer to how to best support mental health in the workplace. But it starts with understanding your organization, what mental health looks like in your work environment, and the specific mental health needs of your employees. It requires open conversations. Figures show that only 19% of employees feel comfortable discussing mental health with senior management (Mindshare Partners, 2023). So it's important to create a safe and supportive environment where employees feel comfortable discussing their mental health concerns without fear of negative repercussions. You might want to set an example and open up about your own mental health stories to start the conversation.

For this step, it's critical to create a culture that destigmatizes mental health by training managers and supervisors on how to recognize and support employees with mental health concerns. Provide them with the tools and resources to effectively address mental health concerns in the workplace. According to a study by the Workforce Institute at UKG, including 3,400 people from 10 countries, nearly 70% of respondents said their managers had the greatest impact on their mental health (UKG, 2023). But it's important to create mental health awareness at all levels, including by educating employees about the importance of mental wellness, how to seek help when needed, and reminding them that it's okay to struggle and ask for support.

Provide resources for those who may need assistance. Resources may include counseling services, online mental health tools, and training programs. If possible, implement an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) within the organization. EAPs have been shown to improve emotional well-being and life satisfaction and reduce workplace stress (Attridge, 2019; Dickerson et al., 2012).

People value psychological safety. It has been shown to be an important factor in a person's ability to thrive, by providing a space where they feel seen and heard, and where creativity and innovation are encouraged through open communication. A psychologically safe work environment creates opportunities for teamwork and collaboration, and supports those facing difficult challenges. It recognizes and celebrates employees' achievements, but more importantly, it allows them to make mistakes and learn from them (McKinsey, 2023).

Encourage mental health practices by promoting healthy habits such as exercise, mindfulness, and adequate sleep. Remind employees to prioritize their mental and physical well-being both inside and outside the workplace. A healthy work-life balance can help prevent burnout and improve overall mental well-being. This includes regularly checking in on your employees well-being, encouraging them to take breaks, utilizing their vacation days, offering mental health days, and avoiding excessive overtime. You may also want to offer flexible work arrangements, such as remote work options, flexible hours, and job-sharing opportunities. Flexibility can help employees better manage their responsibilities and reduce stress.

By prioritizing mental health in the workplace, employers can create a more positive and supportive environment for their employees. Supporting mental health not only benefits individuals but also contributes to a more engaged, productive, and resilient workforce. The healthier your employees, the healthier your business.


Attridge, M. (2019). A Global Perspective on Promoting Workplace Mental Health and the Role of Employee Assistance Programs. American Journal of Health Promotion: AJHP, 33(4), 622–629.

Dickerson, S. J., Murphy, M. W., & Clavelle, P. R. (2012). Work Adjustment and General Level of Functioning Pre- and Post-EAP Counseling. Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health, 27(4), 217–226.

McKinsey. (2023, July 17). What is psychological safety? | McKinsey. McKinsey & Company.

Mindshare Partners. (2023, October). Mind Share Partners’ 2023 Mental Health at Work Report. Mindsharepartners.

UKG. (2023). Mental Health at Work: Managers and Money | UKG. UKG.

WHO. (2022, September 28). Mental health at work. World Health Organization.

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