Mental Health in the Workplace: The Roles of Employers and Employees

Three women sitting at a conference table having a discussion about mental health

Mental health plays a large role in overall health and well-being. It encompasses emotional, psychological, and social behavior. It impacts how we think, feel, interact with others, handle stress, and make decisions, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Achieving and maintaining healthy emotional well-being helps with stress management, promotes healthier relationships, increases productivity at work, and motivates physical activity and community engagement, all of which contribute to a happier, healthier life, says

coworkers working together on a computer

The National Alliance on Mental Illness compiled a list of mental health statistics to show the millions of people in the U.S. affected by mental illness each year that they are not alone. Below are some highlights:

    • 1 in 5 adults will experience mental illness this year.
    • Only 43.3% of U.S. adults with mental illness received treatment in 2018.
    • The average delay of onset mental illness symptoms and treatment is 11 years.
    • 60% of U.S. counties do not have a single practicing psychiatrist.
  • man standing at a lake during a sunset

It’s important to recognize the impact mental health has on overall well-being, not just on designated days or months, but year-round. Both employers and employees have important roles:

Employers, you have the influence to cultivate a positive work environment and culture.  

    • Recognize that mental health issues don’t disappear once employees arrive for work. Encourage them to actively participate in self-care, utilize paid time off and flexible hours, and participate in the company’s wellness program.
    • Incorporate mental health benefits into the benefits package. An Employee Assistance Program can be used to help employees deal with stress, substance abuse, trauma, grief, family problems, and other issues that impact emotional well-being. Your employees can contribute the most when they are feeling their best.

two business men having a one-on-one meeting at work.

Employees, you have an active role in achieving positive mental health.  

    • Maintain a healthy work-life balance. Set a consistent bedtime and receive plenty of rest. Eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, get involved in your community, and spend valuable time with friends and family. All of these will translate to improved work performance and morale.
    • Seek help if you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed. A conversation with your manager about managing your workload could make a world of difference. If the stress is coming from another area of your life, consider talking with a counselor or requesting time off to focus on resolving the issue.

employee talking about mental health with her manager

Just like physical health issues, mental health challenges affect our ability to work effectively. By being aware, supportive, and understanding, we can cultivate a healthy work environment where everyone can learn, grow, and achieve career goals.