Mental health in the workplace: Start the conversation

Jan. 10, 2022

Employees are facing unprecedented pressures amid the pandemic as stress and uncertainty are intensifying the mental health crisis. What’s more, untreated depression can cost employers thousands per employee each year in absenteeism and lost productivity.

The truth is that many employees are struggling to meet basic social needs while trying to adjust to the new normal, often facing multiple crises at once. All of this can put extra stress on business. In fact, mental health conditions are not only the single greatest cause of worker disability claims, but 62% of missed workdays can be attributed to mental health conditions.1 Additionally, employees with untreated mental health conditions have a higher heart attack and stroke risk2 — and employees with severe mental distress are 2 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.3

From productivity loss due to home-life concerns to long-term increased health, disability, and workers’ compensation costs,4 it makes a great deal of sense to lean into this issue from an HR perspective. Bottom line: 80% of employees who receive treatment for a mental health condition report improved job satisfaction.5

Here are some things that HR professionals can do to normalize conversations around mental health. Try providing employees with:

  • Helpful mental wellness resources in one place
  • Wellness tools that are easy to access such as digital self-help tools
  • Companywide mental health support training
  • Mandated breaks to reduce burnout
  • Mental health coverage in your organization’s health insurance policy

Learn more with our guide to prioritizing mental well-being in the workplace.

1 “Bad for Business: The Business Case for Overcoming Mental Illness Stigma in the Workplace,” National Alliance on Mental Illness of Massachusetts, 2015.

2 “Anxiety and Depression Boost Heart Attack and Stroke Risk,” American College of Cardiology, September 19, 2018.

3 Mangurian et al., “Diabetes and Prediabetes Prevalence by Race and Ethnicity Among People With Severe Mental Illness,” Diabetes Care, July 2018.

4 John A. Quelch and Emily C. Boudreau, “Employee Health,” Harvard Business School, February 2016.

5 Garen Staglin, “Understanding the Evidence: Transforming How Employers Make the Case for Mental Health,” Forbes, April 4, 2019.

All carrier plans offered and underwritten by Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington or Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington Options, Inc. Self-funded health benefits are insured by an employer, union, or Plan sponsor. Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington, Inc., provide certain administrative services for the self-funded Plan and are not an insurer of the Plan or financially liable for health care benefits under the Plan.

© 2023 Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington