Poor Mental Health is Costing Employers Billions: Mental Health at Work

poor mental health

While physical health is important, so is mental health. Those who suffer from mental illness often have lower productivity and higher absenteeism than those with physical illness. These problems are also harder to notice or sympathize with, as they are not noticeable. This causes a problem for companies with a workplace culture that doesn’t allow for those with mental illnesses. Read on to find out more about poor mental health in the workplace.

If you’re like most Americans, you probably work in an environment that never touches on the subject of mental health. It’s a common cultural thread that runs through many offices and workplaces. If you do suffer with poor mental health and you’re in need of support, you’re probably not going to mention it to your manager. Most people will avoid expressing their personal struggles with mental health or general thoughts on mental health issues. Thankfully, this line of thinking is beginning to change. More and more employers are starting to understand that helping their employees care for their mental health can benefit everyone. In this article, we explore mental health in the workplace through various lenses. Below you’ll find: 


  • The cost of poor mental health in a company.
  • How poor mental health can prove to be the root of a problem in a company. 
  • The effectiveness of treatment 
  • Tools for employers to promote positive mental health in the workplace.
  • Things you can do in and out of the office to care for your mental health. 

Poor Mental Health: The Cost

Costing over two hundred and twenty-five billion dollars a year, mental illness and substance abuse are a burden on employers across the country. The largest indirect costs to the company are absenteeism and presenteeism. This means that the business is losing money because employees are missing work or performing poorly when they do show up. These results were shown in a study of twenty-eight thousand sample workers in the United States.

Absenteeism is easy enough to recognize. However, presenteeism is easy to overlook. A study on health-related productivity estimated that employees working with untreated illnesses were costing their employers about sixteen hundred dollars a year, per person. Another study showed that up to eighty percent of lost productivity costs are due to presenteeism, while only twenty percent were associated with absenteeism.

Poor Mental Health: The Problem

Employers don’t account for the expenses of presenteeism, though they cannot account for absenteeism accurately. When an employee is suffering from poor mental health, they can move slower and make more mistakes. This may be more costly in correcting mistakes made or compensating for the time being lost. The time lost with more time-consuming work will almost equal that of an absent worker, but there will also be mistakes made. That can make an ill employee a harder problem than one that is home recovering.

It is also more difficult for the employee to recover while still working and could cause them to have a prolonged illness. Underestimating the costs of an employee’s well-being is easy. It is common to overestimate the importance of physical health while underestimating the prevalence and cost of mental illness. This leads to decreased quality of life for the employee and wasteful spending for the employer.

One in five adults experiences a mental illness which can be diagnosed, each year. Of those, fifteen percent have a substance use problem. There are fewer workers staying home from physical disease or injuries than poor mental health. These problems, which go on without treatment, are costing more to employers than other matters. A study showed that workers who have met the requirements for depression, but are not receiving treatment, will use two to four times the healthcare as those of their counterparts. Of adults in the United States, almost seven percent have t least one episode per year. Workers who suffer from depression can cost more than forty-four billion dollars a year to their companies. Of that, over eighty-one percent is lost due to people coming to work sick.

The Solution

Corporate America moving away from reactive care and towards preventing mental health problems would go a long way. It is a treatment that is long overdue, and the rise of national tragedies is a prime indicator. While the government might take its time in implementing preventatives, the private sector is able to assist with effective treatments which can result in better productivity and well-being of employees nationwide.

The Effectiveness of Treatment

A study showed that after three weeks of treatment, employees with poor mental health decreased suffering by fifty percent. After just four months at least seventy-five percent no longer suffered work-related impairment, in the same study. An improvement was shown in both productivity and absenteeism after just one session with a mental health provider.

If you would like to read more about mental health costs to employers, you can start here. You will find that mental illness is a very real detriment to the economy, by way of companies with workplace environments which do not allow for those with poor mental health. A more nurturing work culture will be worth every dollar a company spends and save even more than that in the long run. It isn’t necessary to implement treatments into the office, only to support those who seek treatment.

If you have questions about getting assistance outside of the company, you can start here with any questions you may have. You will find that any help you can get will make all of the difference. Not only will it improve the quality of your life, but your productivity as well. This means a happier life all around and a renewed enthusiasm for the things you love as well as your job. And that is never a bad thing.

Poor Mental Health: What Employers Can Do To Help


Being the boss isn’t always the easiest job. You’re trying to keep track of a team’s progress and manage the growth of a business at the same time. You may feel that bringing mental health issues into the mix can only make things more difficult. However, this couldn’t be any further from the truth. While it can seem daunting to discuss poor mental health in the workplace, ignoring it can produce even bigger problems. Here are a few ways you can create a positive mental health environment for your employees. 


  1. Eliminate the Stigma Around Poor Mental Health 


It’s clear that we’re entering a social movement that’s praising mental health awareness. More people are discussing mental health than ever before. Despite the progress, there’s still a terrible stigma out there that exists around mental health issues. It’s quite common for people to avoid speaking about their poor mental health in fear of judgement. Maybe you believe that your co-workers and managers will think you’re weak or incapable of completing a project. This line of thinking needs to change. We need to take control of our mental health collectively. That starts by eliminating the stigma of mental health challenges. By openly discussing poor mental health in the workplace, you can help to change that stigma. 


  1. Encourage a Healthy Work/Life Balance 


Promoting a healthy work/life balance is one of the most effective ways employers can help employees. You can do this by setting boundaries around work and non-work hours. Remind your employees to use their vacation days. Praise them when they’ve done a great job, but provide them with time off to recover after difficult projects are completed. Tell your employees to ignore emails sent after 5 pm. Allow them to work from home if it benefits them on certain days. Doing things like this can create an atmosphere of a positive work/life balance. When your employees are enjoying time away from the office, they’re more productive when they get back into the office. 


  1. Schedule Mental Health Awareness Events 


There are tons of terrific events and seminars that you can hold in your workplace to help bring awareness to mental health. Your employees can learn stress-relief techniques and methods to help them stay positive through difficult times. Mental health counselors, therapists, and coaches can provide extensive information on what stress and burnout do to our bodies and minds. Education on proper mental health care is important. By simply scheduling these events, you’re showing your team that you care. 


  1. Support Employees Overall Wellness


We all know that our minds and bodies are interconnected. If we’re not physically feeling good, this can have an effect on our mental health. Of course, when we’re experiencing poor mental health, we’re less likely to treat our bodies well. Depression can lead to a decrease in exercise and an increase in junk food. Promoting a strong mental health atmosphere needs to also include an overall wellness component. Encourage your employees to take breaks and go for walks together. Hold yoga or meditation classes after work. Keep the office kitchen or break room stocked with teas and healthy snacks. Small actions like this can help make your employees feel energized and supported. 


  1. Create an Accepting Atmosphere 


Employers can create a calming, supportive, and accepting atmosphere simply by openly discussing poor mental health in the office. Remember to use positive and comforting language. If an employee shares their struggle with a mental health illness, remind them that they’re in a safe and supportive place. Show them that you understand their challenge. You don’t want them to feel like they have to hide certain emotions from you or their colleagues. Accepting atmospheres don’t only promote positivity, but they also promote productivity. 


For More Information on Mental Health in the Workplace


There’s one key takeaway from this article: taking care of your mental health is important and you should get help if you need it. Don’t ever hesitate to reach out to a licensed therapist if you’re experiencing poor mental health or burnout. It’s important for everyone to speak with mental health professionals at one time or another. Give a counselor a call today for more information on mental health in the workplace. 


Boynton Beach Counseling Center
Gateway Counseling Center
1034 Gateway Blvd. #104
Boynton Beach, FL 33426
Phone: (561) 468-6464
Phone: (561) 678-0036

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