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What is a Mentally Healthy Workplace? A Look Inside for Employers.

Updated: Apr 25


Three coworkers talking about mental health at work.


Key Points


What is a mentally healthy workplace?


A mentally healthy workplace is one where:


  • Employees feel safe talking about mental health, seeking support, and showing up authentically at work

  • Mental health is treated as a collective responsibility and integrated into business and workforce strategy.

  • Work protects, sustains, and fulfills its workers physically, mentally, and financially.

  • Workplaces thrive as a result of a healthy workforce.


What are some benefits of creating a work culture that supports employee mental health and wellbeing?


A mentally healthy workforce pays off. In Mind Share Partners 2023 Mental Health at Work Report in partnership with Qualtrics, workers who felt supported by their employer around their mental health…


  • Had better mental health outcomes

  • Were more likely to report the positive impact of work on mental health

  • Were more comfortable talking about mental health at work

  • Had higher levels of job satisfaction

  • Had more trust, pride, and intent to stay at their employer


In fact, a University of Oxford study found that "firm value, return on assets, and profits were all higher for companies with higher workplace wellbeing scores.” A meta-analysis by Deloitte found 5:1 and 6:1 ROIs for mental health training and awareness-building programs, respectively.


What are the characteristics of a mentally healthy workplace?


Mentally healthy workplaces can look different depending on the size, industry, culture, and many other factors. At Mind Share Partners, we’ve advised a diverse range of employers on how to create mentally healthy workplaces. Based on our experience and the broader scientific literature, mentally healthy workplaces typically have the following core components.


People 

A mentally healthy workplace has people across the organization who invest time, resources, and action towards mental health in their own unique ways.


  • Leaders understand, normalize, visibly support, and dedicate resources towards mental health and healthy work. Leaders can name mental health as an organizational priority, model ways they take care of their own mental health, and protect financial and people resource investments to maintain sustainable workloads.

  • Managers proactively support mental health, model healthy work practices, and know how to respond to mental health challenges. This often shows up in regularly checking in with their team members, maintaining clear and consistent communications, and clarifying priorities.

  • Employees are aware of the mental health supports available, feel safe enough to talk about mental health, and are willing to be proactive allies to others. 


Culture & Systems


In mentally healthy workplaces, their culture and systems are cultivated and built to protect, enable, and sustain workers’ mental health. 


  • Benefits and self-care resources are comprehensive, inclusive, and tailored to meet an organization's workforce's diverse and unique needs. From healthcare coverage to wellness programs and other perks, these resources equip workers to care for their mental health both in and outside work. 

  • Company policies protect its workers' autonomy, mental health, and livelihood. These include policies around time off, leave, bereavement, worker protections, and more. 

  • Day-to-day practices and norms foster safety around mental health and healthy and sustainable cultures of work. These softer norms represent the “micro-moments” that make subtle yet cumulative impacts on workers’ mental health, including how people talk to one another, collaborate, communicate urgency, and more. Get our free checklist to review and reset your work practices with your team.


Accountability


Finally, mentally healthy workplaces have a variety of mechanisms that ensure mental health remains a priority throughout the organization. 

  • Clear ownership of mental health initiatives exists to ensure these individuals and/or entities have protected time and resources fully dedicated to mental health. This can be formal roles, steering committees, working groups, or tying leadership performance metrics to worker outcomes. For example, a global law firm launched an internal Mental Health Steering Committee to lead their mental health awareness and training iniatives, comprised of senior leaders with global representation.

  • Measurement and ongoing assessments capture outcomes related to employee mental health. This not only includes outcomes around stress, burnout, and other mental health challenges but also related determinants like safety, autonomy, work-life balance, flexibility, and more. For example, a biopharmaceutical company worked with us on deep-dive discovery conversations that we compared to national benchmark data to shape a strategic approach for mental health.

  • Inclusion is fostered through similarly robust commitments and action towards maintaining diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout the organization.


How can employers create a mentally healthy workplace? 


There are many programs and strategies employers can explore to achieve the aforementioned characteristics of a mentally healthy workplace. As you embark on your own journey to create (or sustain) your mentally healthy workplace, here are three principles to keep in mind.


Adequately address three core components of workplace mental health.

  1. Provide resources that workers can use independently to take care of their mental health. This includes therapy, meditation apps, mindfulness programs, and more. This area is where employers have historically invested most. 

  2. Create a culture of safety. This is where workers can talk about mental health, use mental health resources, and feel comfortable and safe enough to show up as their authentic selves. This is where employers have made substantial strides in recent years through awareness campaigns, storytelling, and more.

  3. Focus on a sustainable work culture. Sustainability is built on tenants of work-life balance, flexibility, autonomy, and financial stability. This is where we’ve seen the least movement by employers, but it is where the greatest potential for lasting impact can be found. 


Listen to your workforce. 


The state of the world, economy, and workforce will inevitably evolve, and so must an organization’s approach to supporting its workforce. As with any workforce strategy, tailor your mental health strategy to the wants and needs of your specific people and culture. Continue to iterate and adjust this strategy as your workforce changes. Unfortunately, as organizations become increasingly large, complex, and bureaucratic, we’ve seen their leaders lose touch with the wants and needs of their people if they do not make intentional and proactive efforts to evolve. 


You don't have to figure it out alone. At Mind Share Partners, we provide guidance and support for our clients at every step, from custom strategy development to implementation.


Envision a mentally healthy future. 


Last but certainly not least, we encourage employers to envision for themselves what a mentally healthy workplace looks like. Look beyond the industry norms to imagine how you might represent a preeminent leader in workforce wellbeing, and model a future that others can follow. This can be emergent trends like doubling down on diversity, equity, and inclusion, exploring new models of decision-making that empower the voices of workers, adopting principles around sustainability, slow growth, and corporate responsibility, or reimagining work itself through four-day work weeks, remote work, and more.



 

Bernie Wong is the Knowledge Lead & Principal at Mind Share Partners

Bernie Wong is the Knowledge Lead & Principal at Mind Share Partners. He manages specialized client services related to research and insights, leads knowledge management across the organization, and oversees Mind Share Partners’ brand design and virtual community for mental health ERGs.




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