Mental Health in the Workplace

Mental Health in the Workplace - Bournewood Health Systems

By Bobby Shriver

Stress. Anxiety. Toxic company cultures. Overwhelming workloads. Burnout. All of these to some degree represent the current experience for many in the working world. As a result, poor mental health in the workplace is under the microscope as its negative impact takes a toll on working adults. But despite current trends, you can maintain good mental health for the long haul with the right guidelines in place.

How Important is Mental Health in the Workplace?

The short answer is, it’s very important. Considering that we spend one-third of our lives at work, shares Gettysburg College, experiencing positive mental health in our jobs is vital to our long-term health and overall well-being. Yet to fully answer how important is mental health in the workplace, take a look at the fallout from its absence:

  • According to Harvard Business Review, 68% of millennials and 81% of Gen Zers left jobs in 2021 due to mental health reasons.
  • From Hollywood actors to auto workers and teachers, multiple labor strikes have occurred this past year due to unfair working conditions.
  • Nearly 30% of nurses are looking to leave their career due to stress, lower job satisfaction, and the pandemic, a 2023 survey from AMN Healthcare reveals.
  • Tragic, newsmaking employee suicides took place in recent years within the healthcare and retail industries due to depression, stress, repeated harassment, and toxic workplace mistreatment, reports USA TODAY and
  • During the three years after an initial health risk assessment, employees with a high risk of depression had the highest health care costs even after taking other health risks into account, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Considering that we spend one-third of our lives at work, experiencing positive mental health in our jobs is vital to our long-term health and overall well-being.

When your place of work doesn’t foster an environment for your mental health to thrive, both you and the company experience significant collateral damage. So what can we do to promote and protect our own mental health and that of our coworkers? Let’s find out.

How to Address Mental Health in the Workplace: Common Stressors

As you consider how to address mental health in the workplace, it’s key to recognize the factors that can negatively impact it. After all, knowing common workplace stressors can help you proactively combat them.

According to the previously mentioned Harvard Business Review research, 84% of respondents reported at least one workplace stressor that negatively impacted their mental health. Of these stressors, the most common was emotionally draining (such as overwhelming, stressful, or monotonous) work. Other common stressors in the survey included work-life balance, poor communication practices, and a lack of connection or support from colleagues or managers.

Even a toxic work environment is becoming a more common stressor among employees across America, so much so that the US Surgeon General’s Framework for Workplace Mental Health and Well-Being emphasized its widespread impact in 2022. In fact, 19% of people from a 2023 survey by the American Psychological Association (APA) indicated their workplace as toxic.

While some of these stressors may sound familiar, the list doesn’t stop there. The APA identifies the following workplace stressors also:

  • Excessive workloads
  • Low pay
  • Lack of advancement or growth opportunities
  • Unclear job expectations
  • Lack of control over job-related decisions

How to Improve Mental Health in the Workplace: Practical Steps You Can Take

Some of the workplace stressors above may personally resonate with you. If so, what steps can you take to protect your mental health at work? Setting clear workplace boundaries is a good starting point to ensure you maintain healthy work-life balance and prevent burnout. Not bringing work home, delegating tasks to others, and seeking advice from your supervisor can be helpful ways to set boundaries, advises From there, the CDC recommends prioritizing areas in your everyday life that can enhance your mental health, including eating healthy, getting enough sleep, meditating, practicing gratitude, and making time for personal, face-to-face relationships.

Setting clear workplace boundaries is a good starting point to ensure you maintain healthy work-life balance and prevent burnout.

Yet even with your attempts to improve your mental health, your workplace environment and job expectations can sometimes be too much. According to Forbes, if you’re experiencing prolonged stress, debilitating anxiety, or depression, these are telltale signs that you need to get professional help for your mental health. And if you’re still feeling overworked or experiencing burnout, seeking employment elsewhere may ultimately be the best alternative to improve your mental health at work.

How to Encourage Mental Health in the Workplace: For Employers

According to the CDC, poor mental health and stress can negatively affect employee engagement, job performance, and productivity. That’s why it’s important for employers to prioritize the mental health of their staff. Some actionable ways employers can encourage mental health in the workplace, the CDC suggests, include providing free or subsidized counseling, offering insurance that covers depression medication and mental health counseling, and training leadership to recognize symptoms of stress and depression in their team. All of these policies should be directly communicated to employees to help provide mental health education and reduce any stigmas.

Get Help for Your Mental Health With Bournewood Health Systems

Though many regularly struggle with their mental health at work, it doesn’t have to be the norm in your life. If you’re navigating work-related stress, anxiety, or depression, Bournewood Health Systems can help. Our partial hospitalization programs allow you to receive evidence-based, person-centered care from a compassionate and dedicated team. We can help you can overcome the mental health challenges weighing you down so you can begin to thrive. To learn more, contact us today.