The Mental Health of Your Employees: A Critical Focus

In any given year, 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. are affected by a mental illness, but only 41% receive mental health services. Many employees keep their mental health issues a secret. Employees become worried that discussing it openly may negatively affect their career. The mental health of your employees has become a critical focus in today’s workforce.

What is your company doing to destigmatize the need for mental treatment and self care?

Mental illnesses costs a total of $190 billion in lost earnings each year in the United States alone. The CDC reports that depression alone is estimated to result in over 200 million lost workdays yearly.

Effects on Business

The World Health Organization (WHO) published a report in 2016 revealing that if treatment for mental health isn’t scaled up, 12 billion workdays will have been lost to anxiety and depression by 2030.

Companies must consider more than just days missed, but also the resulting productivity lost in the office when employees do not have the ability to take time away from the office as needed. Since many companies still have no standards in place for personal days revolving around self care, employees are often still attending work, but aren’t able to focus. This can lead to increased stress, which in turn will only amplify the problems the employee is experiencing.

A survey conducted by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America reveals more than half the people surveyed with workplace anxiety reported being unmotivated and fatigued. Exhaustion and lack of motivation due to anxiety leads to employees requiring more time to finish their tasks. This eventually leads to the hours of lost productivity to pile up.

Breaking the Stigma

In 2017, an email exchanged between an employee and her boss on a live-chat platform went viral due to the involvement of mental health.

Madalyn Parker sent an email to her team letting them know she would be taking a couple of days off due to her mental health, expecting to return refreshed and at 100% the next week. Her boss replied thanking her for cutting through the stigma. He used emails similar to hers as a reminder of the importance of using sick days for mental health.

Corporations such as Barclays approached the subject by empowering employees to tell their own stories of mental health in their “This is Me” campaign. The campaign has grown to feature 200+ stories and has been visited more than 60,000 times.

Companies Taking Action

The America Psychological Association conducted a survey in 2016 which revealed that less than 50% of working adults in the U.S. felt that their companies supported the health of their employees.

Recently, this landscape has been transforming for the better in both large and small organizations. Top companies are taking action, and taking care of their employee’s mental health. Businesses including Aetna and Unilever are expanding their wellness benefits.

 Mindfulness and Meditation in the Workplace

Aetna has introduced a mindfulness initiative for their employees. Subsequently, Aetna has estimated that they save over $3,000 per employee per year on potential lost productivity. During their first year of introducing their mindfulness program, healthcare costs dropped by 7%, saving the company over $6 million.

Unilever has taken similar strides with its global health initiative to have managers take workshops to help them recognize the signs of mental health distress. The very same APA survey revealed that 73% of employees said their companies help them to develop healthy lifestyles simply because their senior managers showed commitment to their well-being.

Employee Benefits That Support Mental Health

There’s a plethora of employee benefits and perks that a company can offer to its employees. Here are some options you can implement to help improve employee’s mental health.

Leadership Training

Due to this stigma that continues to be pervading the discussion of mental health in the workplace, it is important to offer your staff is employee training on the subject. Train your leadership that mental health is not a negative topic and should not be avoided, but instead addressed in an appropriate and professional manner.

Leadership must be capable of having an educated and empathetic conversation with their team regarding mental health. They need to be aware of the importance of discussing the subject openly.


New technology allows your employees to have a variety of options for improving their mental health, during their own time, and where they feel the most comfortable. Both cognitive therapy and social interaction are key concepts to maintaining a healthy mentality. Technology has paved the way in making both of these more accessible.

Apps such as Moodkit and Happify are specifically made for recognizing and improving a person’s mental health. By applying principles and techniques of cognitive behavior therapy, apps such as these are able to have a positive effect on your employee’s mental health.

Burnalong is an app that allows employees to take thousands of classes, from hundreds of instructors, across more than 40 categories (including mental health), anytime, anywhere. With Burnalong you can help your employees gain social support by taking classes in live private sessions with co-workers, friends, or family members your team invites.

By expanding its scope beyond standard conceptions of fitness, Burnalong offers unique opportunities for social engagement, and providing resources in ALL areas of wellness.

Flexible Work Options

Having flexible work options can be game changing for an employee who is struggling with their mental health on any given day. Options including work location and scheduling should be included. This gives these employees the opportunity to work around moments where they may be struggling more with their personal mental health. Additionally, this provides employees the opportunity to seek out the care they need from professionals while having the flexibility they need for scheduling necessary appointments.


The better we understand mental health, the more we discover about the impact it has on a person’s total wellness and their workplace efficiency. Your employee benefits can be the difference between an employee struggling, or breaking through and finding success.

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