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Mental Health at the Workplace - An Introduction

Updated: Nov 26, 2023

Approximately 20% of American adults, 50 million people, experience some form of mental illness and at least 15% of youth have experienced a major depressive episode [1]. Also, these numbers are steadily increasing year after year.

Mental health at the workplace

Organizations need to pay attention to these statistics because they are indicative of the nature and needs of future employees. With streams of new entrants joining the working population every year, organizations need to have policies and systems in place to support employees facing mental health issues. Also, organizations perform better when their employees are healthy, focused and motivated.

Impact of the pandemic

The global pandemic impacted the emotional and physical well-being of almost all individuals in some form. From battling grief and anxiety to shouldering additional responsibilities at home while being closed off from social interaction, the pandemic has reshaped the general outlook of most people. Organizations need to understand, accept and transform themselves to align with these changing outlooks. As the interconnection between work lives and personal lives becomes more apparent, workplaces can no longer ignore the impact of one on the other.

Impact of work on mental health

When surveyed in 2021, 68% of Millennials (50% in 2019) and 81% of Gen Zers (75% in 2019) have left roles for mental health reasons, both voluntarily and involuntarily, compared with 50% of respondents overall (34% in 2019) [2]. These numbers indicate that employees have become cognizant of their own needs. Many prioritize their mental health (as they should!) and choose to leave organizations that do not seem to be the right fit for them. To become employers of choice and mitigate attrition, it's imperative that companies prioritize mental health initiatives.

The key is to create a safe and inclusive workplace where employees are treated fairly based on their contribution to the organization and not judged or scrutinized based on their invisible disabilities. Proactive steps taken by the management team to create an open and supportive environment will enable employees to be their authentic selves without the fear of judgment from their managers or colleagues. The high prevalence and widespread dialogue about mental health has slowly altered the perception and reduced the stigma associated in the past with these challenges.

Mental Health Employee Resource Group ?(ERG)

Starting a mental health Employee Resource Groups (ERG) is a great way to create a support group and show your employees you care. There are also new studies suggesting the intersection of DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) at the workplace and mental health. Certain demographics were observed to be struggling more than others. Organizations can leverage Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) or Employee Networks (ENs) to support and empower underrepresented groups thus, aiding their mental health through the power of community.

Being equipped to deal with invisible disabilities such as mental health issues is the need of the hour. Organizations need to have dedicated members who would work on understanding the mental health challenges experienced by employees and design policies and practices that would help them give their best without stress and anxiety. In order to thrive in the future, employers need to be vocal and practical about their approach to mental health at the workplace. The sooner organizations ingrain this in their DNA , the better it is for their future and growth.

Through open communication, investment in research and resources, and pure intentions, organizations can become safe havens for their employees. Though a cultural shift will not happen overnight, they need to understand that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

[1] Mental Health America Statistics 2022

[2] 2021 Mental Health at Work Report - Mind Share Partners

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