Mental Health In The Workplace: Supporting Employees For Whole-person Health

May 02,2022

Read Time 4 Minutes

Nearly 1 in 5 adults in the United States experience a mental health issue — and more than half don’t receive treatment. Yet just as they would go to a doctor for a physical health condition like cancer or heart disease, your employees also should seek care for a mental health condition like anxiety or depression.

There are plenty of reasons to support whole-person health. From a business standpoint, poor mental health in the workplace can cost billions in absenteeism, presenteeism, and higher healthcare costs. Employees experiencing mental health conditions cost employers an average of $3,000 more in healthcare services per year than their peers. However, employers that support mental health see a return of $4 for every dollar they invest in behavioral health coverage and enjoy higher workplace satisfaction.


3 Ways To Support Mental Health At Work


Supporting mental health at work starts with acknowledging this common and growing concern and helping to reduce stigma. Offering connected healthcare benefits and resources to your employees empowers them to address their mental health needs. Taking these steps will help your employees feel covered, protected, and confident.


1. Recognize The Challenges Of Mental Health

More than ever, employees expect employers to show empathy and commitment to addressing mental health challenges. Some people are leaving their jobs because they feel their employers don't support their mental health enough.


The first step in addressing mental health conditions is to recognize that anxiety, stress, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, grief, burnout, and substance use disorders all present real-life challenges. Consider depression, for example. The National Institute on Mental Health estimates that 21 million adults in the U.S, or nearly 8.4%, have at least one major depressive episode every year. That means they had depressive symptoms such as loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities, problems eating and sleeping, or frequent thoughts of self-harm for two weeks or longer.


These are serious issues that impact quality of life at home and work. It’s vital to have a robust variety of benefits and resources that support optimal mental health and well-being. Companies like Empire can help. With its mission to improve lives and communities, Empire is deeply committed to providing meaningful solutions and expanding access to behavioral healthcare to help address these issues, engage individuals, and enhance whole-person health.


2. Actively Work To Reduce Stigma

Many employees hesitate to open up about mental health for fear it will hurt their career. Yet mental health can impact productivity and meaningful connections at work. That’s why it’s crucial to encourage positive conversations and foster a culture that reduces the stigma around mental health. 


If you're unsure how to start these conversations, the most important considerations are to be open and honest, to listen, and to demonstrate empathy in the workplace. Encourage leaders at all levels to include mental health in their ongoing communications about a healthy workplace — and invite them to share how they stay mentally healthy or have addressed their own issues. When leaders talk openly about mental health and back it up with supportive resources and benefits, it shows the company takes these conditions seriously. It can also help your employees gather the courage to seek treatment.


When you create a culture that acknowledges and addresses mental health issues in the workplace, your employees will notice. And by encouraging them to seek help, you’ll be reducing the stigma and supporting whole-person health.


3. Provide Mental Health Benefits And Resources

While 65% of employers report they support mental health well, a report by McKinsey reveals that only 51% of all employees agree. The disconnect is even greater with frontline employees. Lack of awareness is part of the problem, so you may need to frequently promote the mental health benefits available through your health plan offerings and employee assistance program (EAP).


Mental health conditions are linked with other chronic conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease. This is where proactive solutions play a critical role. Health benefits that provide simplified, digitally connected, and personalized care can help encourage employees to address their mental and physical needs.


Virtual care is a convenient way for your employees to access counseling, primary care, and healthy lifestyle guidance. These telehealth visits are an essential part of the whole-person care model, ensuring your employees are supported in their daily lives and during times of acute need.


An EAP program also supports whole health by giving your employees an affordable way to connect with licensed therapists, as well as financial and legal advisors. It also can boost employee engagement, productivity, and satisfaction — with 86% of respondents in an Empire EAP study conducted in 2020 saying their work performance and productivity had improved. An EAP can help lower costs, too. An Empire EAP evaluation shows that after two years, an employer can experience savings of $936 for employees who use an EAP compared to those who are not actively engaged with their EAP benefit.


While work can be a major contributor to stress and anxiety, it often is a key factor in a person’s sense of purpose and well-being. And employees who feel their employer cares about their health and well-being are more energized and adaptable. As an employer, you have the platform to shape the narrative on mental health in the workplace — and change the outcomes.