6 Ways to Instill Mental Health into Work Culture  

Your business’ priorities should include prioritizing mental health in the workplace

Most Americans spend the majority of their waking hours at work, and employee stress is on the rise. More than 40 percent of all U.S. workers across industries experienced burnout this year, according to a report by Future Forum, a trend that has been increasing even before the COVID-19 pandemic — especially among health care workers. This coincides with the increases of anxiety and depression that are also a result of the pandemic. While the causes and strategies to improve burnout should be addressed at a work environment rather than employee level, burnout can negatively impact a person’s mental health and this should be a focus of interventions simultaneous to those focused on the work environment. 

Given the amount of time we spend at work, workplace culture can have an enormous impact on mental health. Unfortunately, many businesses fail to make their employees’ mental well-being a priority. Caring for employees’ mental health has numerous business benefits, such as increasing productivity and job performance and lowering absences, according to one study. It also saves companies money. Workplace stress costs the U.S. economy an estimated $300 billion each year due to absenteeism, lost productivity and accidents.  

Making mental health a priority is key for employee satisfaction and meeting business goals. Here are six ways it can be accomplished. 

  1. Lead by example

It’s one thing to say a business prioritizes mental health, and another to exemplify it. Prioritizing mental health begins at the top. 

Executives, managers and supervisors should consider demonstrating healthy work-life balance so their subordinates know they can do the same. Some examples include taking time off, saying no to new projects when feeling overwhelmed, and avoiding consistently working late. Additionally, it is up to leaders to create a psychologically safe environment that allows employees to raise concerns including things that would impact their mental health.  

Leaders also should consider being transparent about their own mental health struggles to help employees know they have a safe place to share about their own.  

  1. Conduct regular check-ins

Nearly 60 percent of workers have never discussed mental health at work, according to Harvard Business Review. Business leaders should consider incorporating regular mental health conversations as part of their routine staff meetings and during one on ones. While it may feel awkward or uncomfortable at first, it gives employees an opening to share their issues, know they are not alone, and get connected to help. It also helps reduce stigma and normalize conversations around mental health in the workplace.  

  1. Start the conversation — and listen well

If leaders notice an employee is exhibiting concerning behaviors, such as consistently showing up late, performing poorly on work assignments, or appearing sad or withdrawn, it’s critical to check in. Employers should be direct and ask open ended questions like “I’ve noticed you don’t seem like yourself. How have you been doing?” Managers should also consider doing more listening than talking to give employees the space to share. This includes being empathetic and non-judgmental, careful not to try to “fix” the problem, but instead to connect employees to appropriate resources.  

  1. Create safe spaces for connection and disconnection from work

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy identified connection and community as one of five priorities in his Framework for Workplace Mental Health and Well-Being. This entailed creating an inclusive work environment that promotes belonging and fosters supportive work relationships and teamwork.  

Creating safe spaces for employees to connect with each other and disconnect from work, such as rooms for meditation or relaxation, is a simple, but effective way to promote taking breaks throughout the day. Leaders can also encourage — and model — taking breaks, whether that’s going for a walk or out for lunch. Studies have associated breaks with decreased stress levels and increased productivity.  

Planning work outings and team activities is another way to facilitate connection among employees. Social connection has been linked to better mental health and management of stress, anxiety and depression, according to the CDC.

  1. Update policies

The COVID-19 pandemic changed the world as we knew it — especially how we view work life. Managers should consider proactively identifying how they can best support their employees’ mental health when it comes to work policies. It’s critical that business leaders are as flexible and accommodating as possible.  

If businesses don’t already include mental health care as an employee benefit, that can be a goal to work toward. Therapy can cost between $100-300 per session, but despite the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Act of 2008 that requires most health plans or health insurers that offer coverage for mental health conditions or substance use disorders to make these benefits comparable to those offered for medical and surgical benefit, some insurance carriers are not required to cover mental health and an estimated 45 percent of psychiatrists don’t accept any insurance, according to one study. Adding mental health benefits can help more employees access critical mental health care.  

  1. Help employees find meaning

Feeling a sense of purpose in life has been linked to lower rates of depression. Surgeon General Murthy included “Mattering at Work” as another component of workplace mental health, which includes providing a living wage, engaging employees in workplace decisions, and recognizing employees’ successes. These are all ways business leaders can help promote mental well-being by valuing their workers.  

Business leaders should also think of and provide growth opportunities for workers, such as trainings and mentorship programs, to help workers feel empowered and engaged in their work.   


Mental well-being is already a high priority for employees. Ninety-two percent of workers said it is very or somewhat important for them to work at a company that values their emotional and psychological well-being, according to the American Psychological Associations 2023 Work in America Survey. Employers should consider making mental health a workplace priority for the benefit of their employees and their business.  

Are you looking to instill mental health into your work culture but don’t know where to begin? Check out our No One Cares Alone (NOCA) Playbook for programs and resources.