Why Should Mental Health Be a Priority in the Workplace? 

Mental health has become an increasingly important issue in recent years, as people grapple with rising stress levels, anxiety, and depression. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that in 2019, 15% of working adults were diagnosed with a mental disorder. However, this percentage has since risen due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which triggered a 25% increase in stress and anxiety-related disorders according to the WHO. In the workplace, these issues can have a significant impact on productivity, morale, and the overall well-being of employees.  

Rising mental health issues impact not only employees but also the success of the entire firm. When employees are struggling with poor mental health, it can lead to reduced productivity, increased absenteeism, and high staff turnover rates. In contrast, when employees are psychologically healthy they tend to be more motivated, engaged, and productive in their work. They are also more likely to be creative, and innovative, and contribute positively to the organization’s success.  

One silver lining in the midst of all the turmoil and pain is that employers are starting to recognize the prevalence of these issues and the need to combat stigma. This journey begins with organizations identifying the many risk factors contributing to the worsening mental health of employees. Our post will delve into the factors that affect employee mental health and also identify signs that may indicate an employee is grappling with underlying mental health issues. Moreover, we will examine some companies that have invested significant time and resources into fostering a work environment that prioritizes both physical and mental wellness, with the hope of inspiring other organizations to follow suit. 

Risk Factors That Affect Employee Mental Health 

Stress and burnout are the primary cause of poor mental health among employees. Approximately 94% of employees indicate experiencing stress in the workplace, with nearly one-third describing their stress levels as ranging from high to unsustainably high. Similarly, according to SelectSoftware Reviews, a platform analyzing HR software, 23% of office employees in the US face high levels of stress in their workplace, while 39% report moderate stress. Deadlines, pressure from management or coworkers, job uncertainty, long hours, and a high workload can all cause stress.   

The incidence of burnout has also seen a significant rise, with McKinsey and Company reporting that 28% of employees in the US are experiencing burnout symptoms. Employee burnout can result from a combination of factors such as lack of control or autonomy, insufficient support, work-life imbalance, and a mismatch between an individual’s values and the organization’s culture or demands. This generally manifests as a lack of energy and enthusiasm, impatience, frustration, and dissatisfaction with job objectives and achievements.  

Other factors that contribute to the increasing stress and burnout among employees include: 

  • Inadequate training or instruction for the role 
  • Limited or confusing communication from management regarding duties, goals, or decision-making 
  • An environment where mental health issues are stigmatized or discriminated against 
  • Inadequate assistance, lack of equipment or other employment resources 
  • Lack of clarity or leadership in defining roles and communication 
  • Presence of toxic workplace behavior, where employees feel uncomfortable, unsupported, and unwelcome 
  • Lack of inclusivity and equal opportunities 

The graph below illustrates the different factors contributing to employee burnout and distress, expressed as a percentage of the total global variance. Global variance represents the overall distribution of values across the entire dataset or population. The graph emphasizes the substantial impact of toxic workplace behavior on employee burnout and distress, while also demonstrating the inverse relationship between distress/burnout and positive elements such as freedom from stigma, inclusivity, and a supportive growth environment.

Success Stories: Companies Investing in Employee Mental Health and Well-being 

Employers have responded to declining mental health with efforts such as mental health days or weeks, four-day workweeks, and expanded counseling benefits or apps. Here are just a few of the firms that are investing time and money into creating an environment where both mental and physical wellness are prioritized. These companies are industry leaders, demonstrating that any firm can take these challenges seriously and create beneficial improvements.   


Unilever, the well-known consumer products company behind brands such as Dove and Ben & Jerry’s, is implementing various measures to support the mental health of its employees. So far, the company has trained 4,000 of its global staff members to serve as “mental health champions,” who are responsible for identifying signs of mental health struggles among colleagues and referring them to appropritate mental health professionals.  

In addition, Unilever is one of the founding partners of the Global Business Collaboration (GBC) for Better Workplace Mental Health, a business-driven initiative aimed at promoting and accelerating improvements in workplace mental health. The organization advocates for proactive measures to cultivate a culture and working environment that promotes positive mental health and reduces mental illness. They empower employees to prioritize their mental well-being and support one another. Additionally, they provide information about available mental health resources and regularly measure the impact of their efforts, sharing progress openly to inspire change within their organizations and beyond. 


Akamai, a US-based content delivery network (CDN), cybersecurity, and cloud services company, prioritizes the mental well-being of its employees. As part of this commitment, they created the Wellness Program, responsible for developing, implementing, and overseeing initiatives that promote employee growth and well-being both within and outside of the workplace. The initiative involves working closely with the Akamai community to plan events and activities in line with the company’s wellness pillars, which include being active, nourished, peaceful, balanced, and healthy. Past programs organized under this initiative have included a multi-week class to improve sleep, pet therapy sessions, outdoor scavenger hunts, and a speaker series addressing topics such as burnout. 

Johnson & Johnson 

Johnson & Johnson performs frequent mental health evaluations and workplace risk assessments so that management may adopt appropriate action plans. Managers and staff are educated to be aware of psychological concerns and to take actions to assist in alleviating them. Stress management, resilience, and work-life balance are all part of this. Furthermore, the company formed the One Mind Initiative in collaboration with the Kennedy Forum. One Mind aims to increase access to mental healthcare, reform coverage, and enhance workplace mental health by bringing together CEOs from significant businesses. This initiative has made a significant impact by enhancing mental health benefits and support for approximately 26 million individuals globally in 2021. 

Oliver Wyman 

The firm gives free professional counseling to employees 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and closes its offices for “Recharge” days to let staff disconnect. Oliver Wyman also established a worldwide wellness Champion Network for workers to give assistance to one another and has collaborated with other groups such as City Mental Health Alliance and This Can Happen, to promote workplace wellness. 

Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. 

Samsung’s commitment to employee wellness has been multi-faceted, covering financial, emotional, physical, and social well-being support. Their Semiconductor program provides employees who are dealing with stress access to expert medical services and a tailored health program that includes counseling services. Samsung employees can also seek support from the Counseling Center or mental health clinics at any time during the workday. The locations offer various online and offline activities such as meditation, body scan meditation, and breathing meditation, allowing employees to relax and clear their minds. For this reason, Samsung received recognition at Benefits Canada’s Workplace Benefits Awards in 2021 for its all-encompassing approach to employee health and wellness. 

Breaking the stigma around mental health and encouraging open and honest conversations can help create a safe and supportive work environment. With the right strategies and initiatives in place, companies can prioritize mental health and well-being as fundamental aspect of their business operations and contribute to a healthier and happier workforce overall. The success stories of companies like Unilever, Akamai, and Samsung demonstrate the benefits of taking a comprehensive approach to employee wellness, from education and training to customized programs and counseling services. By prioritizing employee mental health and well-being, these companies are not only improving the lives of their employees but also enhancing their overall success and sustainability.  

It is now time for more organizations to take action to support their employees. By acknowledging the prevalence of mental health challenges and investing in resources and programs that support employee well-being, companies can promote a positive work culture and foster a more productive and engaged workforce.  

By Vibha Sathesh Kumar
Vibha Sathesh Kumar