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Mental Health in the Workplace: Its impact on job performance, satisfaction, and retention

If you haven’t heard, we’re living (and working) in the midst of a mental health crisis. Maybe you’ve noticed employees calling off work more frequently or your team’s productivity diminishing. These, among others, are signs of an unhealthy workforce. 

A recent study shows a whopping 76% of US workers experienced at least one symptom of a mental health condition last yearan increase of 17% in just two years! 

Burnout, depression, and anxiety (the three most commonly experienced mental health conditions) are such common struggles for employees that strong organizations are adapting their culture and policies to respond to the surging need for mental health support. 

Studies have shown that leaders who support their employee’s mental health see a direct impact on job performance, productivity, retention, and recruitment. As we’ll see in the article below, higher levels of mental well-being are reflected in greater collaboration and innovation — not to mention a positive effect on the bottom line. 

Mental Health’s Impact on Job Performance 

We’ve known for a long time that poor mental health negatively impacts job performance. In the past, it was easier for employers to address this individually. Today, with three-quarters of the workforce struggling with their mental health, it must be addressed at the organizational level. 

Let’s take a look at the numbers

  • Workers who struggle with depression miss an average of 8 days of work per year — an 85% increase from 2019! 
  • Employers lose 28% of their employees’ productivity when mental health issues go unsupported.
  • This loss of productivity from poor mental health is estimated to cost the world 16 trillion USD by 2023! 

Undoubtedly, supporting your employees’ mental health should be at the top of your priority list. We’ll explore some ways you can do that in just a minute. Before we do, let’s look at how mental health impacts job satisfaction, retention, and recruitment. 

Mental Health’s Impact on Retention & Recruitment  

Are you familiar with “The Great Resignation”? Of course, you are. It is, in part, the workforce reckoning with how their jobs impact their mental health, work-life balance, and overall well-being. 

According to a recent report from Mind Share Partners, “81% of Gen Z and 68% of Millennial respondents reported having left previous roles due, at least in part, to mental health reasons, while only 12% of Baby Boomers and 38% of Gen X respondents reported doing so.”

Data Courtesy of Mind Share Partners

The workforce, especially younger generations, is demanding workplaces that support their mental health. They want to feel safe, respected, and connected to their colleagues. 

Of the respondents to the survey mentioned above, 

  • 32% said they left because of emotionally draining work
  • 29% cited a low sense of connection to or support from colleagues or their manager 
  • 26% cited poor communication practices 
  • 26% reported discrimination or harassment 
  • 25% cited a lack of recognition for the work they did 

These factors (emotionally draining work, a lack of connection, discrimination…) are directly related to mental health conditions such as anxiety, burnout, and depression. 

On the other hand, recruitment efforts are also impacted. 81% of workers say mental health support will be an important factor when considering future work. 

The data makes it clear — nurture employee wellness and mental health, or risk losing your industry’s top talent. 

How to Support Employee Mental Health Inside Your Organization 

At a minimum, employees need to feel safe, supported, and connected if they’re going to stay with your organization. Employers with the healthiest and happiest workforce go beyond those basics and nurture their employee’s overall well-being with extra, intentional measures. Here are a few places to start: 

Create a safe environment — bullying isn’t limited to the schoolyard. Integrate DEI measures and prioritize frequent, honest communication between managers and employees. 

Nurture community and a sense of belonging — we all want to belong to something larger than ourselves. Foster a culture of community through non-work related activities like celebrations or weekly happy hours. Further, you can build a culture of connection with personal check-ins and time for non-work-related conversations. 

Support time off — time freedom continues to grow in importance for most of the workforce. Whether your employees need to take a mental health day or go to the dentist, support them in taking care of their overall well-being away from work. 

Strengthen your employer brand a strong employer brand helps employees feel a sense of pride, increases retention, decreases turnover, and supports your culture of belonging. 

Develop clear pathways for growth — feeling unchallenged and stuck in their role worsens employee mental health. When you support their development by creating opportunities for advancement, employees will feel more purposeful and driven. 

Workplace Culture is Changing

Leaders must understand that mental health is an organizational priority. Workers are demanding healthier work environments, and smart organizations are working hard to meet their mental health needs. In order to attract, retain, and productively engage your industry’s top talent, you must build a culture that acknowledges and supports everyone’s mental health.

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WSI is here to help you get started.

Starting with an audit of your current employer brand, we’ll help you strategically attract top talent so you can hire — and keep! — the best people for your organization.