Mental Health & Organizational Success

Mental Health & Organizational Success

Although mental health is rarely discussed in professional environments, it has a staggering effect on employee productivity and organizational success. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a valuable time to refresh your understanding of mental health symptoms and impacts and how they can be identified and addressed. Here, we discuss common concerns and considerations to help organizations determine how to promote mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.

Mental Health in the Workplace

Mental health refers to an individual’s emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It is a crucial factor in productivity, satisfaction, and stress response. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experience mental illness. In the workplace, some of the warning signs for employee mental health issues include:

  • Frequently calling in sick or requesting time off
  • Diminished concentration, job performance, and productivity
  • An unkempt or unhealthy appearance
  • Social withdrawal
  • Changes in eating and sleeping patterns
  • Fatigue
  • Unnecessary or excessive worry, irritability, or panic
  • Mood swings or erratic behavior
  • Easily frustrated
  • Abuse of drugs, alcohol, or other vices

If any employees are exhibiting these behaviors, it may indicate that they are experiencing mental health concerns. Common mental health conditions include depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and substance abuse. Identifying these warning signs and providing employees with support is particularly important during the pandemic, as COVID-19 and its associated disruptions have caused an uptick in daily stressors and mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression. 

The Impacts of Mental Health on Organizational Success

Mental health concerns can impact organizations in a number of ways. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that depression can cause a 35% reduction in cognitive performance and a 20% reduction in physical performance. According to the American Psychiatric Association, unresolved employee depression costs the U.S. economy over $200 billion per year in absenteeism, health care costs, and reduced productivity. Other impacts of mental health include:

  • Higher turnover rates. When employees are struggling with mental health concerns or burnout and do not feel as though they have sufficient employer support, they are more likely to quit.
  • Lost productivity. Employees experiencing mental health issues often have trouble concentrating and completing tasks. In fact, employees struggling with unresolved depression experience a 35% reduction in productivity.
  • Absenteeism. Workers experiencing mental health crises are at higher risk of absence from the workplace by a ratio of 31:1. This accounts for an estimated 7% of global payroll across all organizations.
  • Presenteeism refers to the indirect costs associated with “working while wounded.” For example, employees with depression report approximately 5.6 hours of lost time per week of work. Presenteeism costs are nearly double that of absenteeism and it accounts for 81% of lost productivity. 

Strategies to Support Employee Mental Health

There are several strategies that organizations can apply to improve employee mental health and organizational success. Some include:

  • Providing supportive resources. Establish and communicate mental health policies and resources, such as counseling options or time off policies. These tools can also help employees understand how to talk about mental health in the workplace.
  • Assessing employee workloads. Regularly check in to ensure that employee workloads are appropriate and that they do not feel overwhelmed. This will help prevent burnout and make it clear that employee health and success are a priority.
  • Encouraging regular breaks. Remind employees that it is expected that they take breaks throughout the day to eat, take a walk, or recharge and that they should take vacation time when needed.
  • Offering mental health education. Consider providing mandatory or optional mental health programs for the workplace, such as training and resources. This can include information about how to reduce stress and burnout, identify and address concerning behaviors in coworkers, and access relevant support and resources. 

Mental health stigma can prevent employees from sharing mental health concerns or seeking help, and many employees feel that discussing their mental health can lead to negative repercussions. However, unaddressed mental health concerns can lead to absenteeism, presenteeism, and impacted productivity. Reducing the stigma and addressing workplace mental health discrimination is not only critical for employees who may be struggling, but it helps facilitate a successful and healthy workplace.

Mental Health & Organizational Success

Prioritizing mental health in your workplace is critical for both employee and organizational success. Maintaining a mentally healthy workforce will decrease absenteeism and turnover rates and will improve productivity and enrich your working environment. This Mental Health Awareness Month, seek to improve mental health literacy among employees and download this free mental health poster for the workplace.

Additionally, consider how risk intelligence platforms like Vector LiveSafe can help your organization surface actionable intelligence about mental health issues and other concerns in your workplace. 


Alexandra Brunjes has a B.S. in Neurobiology from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. with minors in Creative Writing and French. She is a published journalist and experienced health and science writer. Her expertise includes risk intelligence, healthcare and neuroscience, and technology.

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