Employee well-being is crucial for maintaining a positive employee experience. In the past decade, anxiety and depression rates, especially among young adults in the U.S., have risen significantly. A 2023 Gallup poll showed the depression rate among adults under 30 is now 25%, up from 13% in 2017. With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, we wanted to focus on strategies to help your workplace create a mentally healthy environment.

Some workplaces are starting programs to address stress and burnout, while other organizations are refining their offerings to better serve their staff. Here are five essentials for workplace mental health and wellbeing and ways to create a supportive organizational culture.

Five Essentials for Workplace Mental Health and Wellbeing

The American Psychological Association (APA) has identified five essential pillars for workplace mental health and wellbeing. They address fundamental human needs that resonate with every individual no matter their job, career path, or place within the organization. These pillars revolve around empowering the worker’s voice, emphasizing the importance of listening to employees, and fostering an equitable and fair workplace. These pillars include:

  1. Protection from harm: A safe and secure work environment is essential. This means that both physical and psychological safety measures have been taken so employees feel comfortable expressing themselves without fear of reprisal or discrimination.
  2. Connection and community: Build a sense of belonging and friendship among employees in order to foster a supportive community within the workplace. 
  3. Work/life harmony: Help employees balance work responsibilities with their personal lives to promote mental health. 
  4. Mattering at work: Employees must feel valued and know their contributions are meaningful. This helps them to have a sense of purpose in the workplace.
  5. Opportunity for growth: By providing avenues for professional development, career advancement, and skill enhancement, you can increase job satisfaction and overall staff wellbeing.

7 Strategies to Prioritize Mental Health in the Workplace

For businesses serious about creating a healthy work environment for employees, consider the following tactics:

Offer flexibility

One way to prioritize mental health in the workplace is to give workers more flexibility regarding where, when, and how they perform their jobs. According to a study of employees, people whose jobs allowed them more leeway had a 13% lower risk of suffering from daily worry. Flexibility and discussion about how employees can perform their jobs most effectively are important. This may mean exploring options for remote work, flexible hours, or alternative work setups.

Flexibility promotes autonomy and trust, key factors in employee well-being.

Re-examine health insurance policies

Another way to promote employee wellbeing is to reevaluate health insurance coverage. An estimated 30–50% of adults may have a mental illness at some point in their lives, which can cost more than $200 billion a year in medical expenses and lost productivity. 

Although the mental health parity law ensures that mental health is insured similarly to physical health, many individuals are not aware of their benefits.  Explaining and promoting your mental health benefits may increase awareness as well as use of these opportunities, contributing to a healthier and more supportive workplace culture.

Take feedback from employees

Establish the practice of listening to your employees’ feedback and using that information to implement change. According to research conducted by Gallup, teams who get feedback based on their strengths are 12.5% more productive than teams without input.

However, don’t just use this feedback to check the box—though obtaining employee feedback is the main exercise, it is just as important to close the loop and inform your staff about what the organization is doing with that feedback. 

Whether you implement coffee with the CEO, formal surveys, or fast-pulse feedback questionnaires, employees want to feel that they are being listened to. The information you receive benefits both the organization by creating more effective policies but also improves employee wellbeing and happiness.

Train managers

Educate your supervisors on the importance of health and wellness. Having a leadership team that prioritizes mental health and sets a good example is very encouraging. A study shows that managers trained in workplace mental health show improvement in their understanding, attitudes, and self-reported behavior when it comes to helping employees with mental health concerns.

Additionally, managers can encourage the use of mental health benefits your company offers. Be sure they are clear on the details so they can appropriately discuss them with their teams. By making mental health a normal part of conversation, it removes much of the stigma that surrounds it.

Encourage acts of kindness toward others

Engaging in acts of kindness can significantly reduce anxiety and depression, according to a recent study in the Journal of Positive Psychology. By helping others, it can shift focus away from personal worries. 

Leaders in the workplace can implement this by acting on it themselves first. They should show kindness, express gratitude, and actively support employee development. Encouraging a culture of kindness in the workplace will benefit mental health and strengthen team morale and productivity.

Promote physical exercise

Engaging in physical exercise has emerged as a powerful tool for enhancing mental wellbeing. 

A study shows that exercise has a positive effect on mental health. Even simple activities like walking in natural surroundings can reduce rumination and neural patterns linked to mental disorders. Group exercises, like team sports, amplify these benefits through social interaction. 

Employers can foster this by providing gym memberships, organizing fitness events, promoting lunchtime walking groups, and supporting flexible schedules for physical activities. 

Make work meaningful

Leaders and managers play a crucial role in supporting mental health by cultivating a sense of meaning in their employees’ work. Research shows that individuals with a strong sense of purpose are more resilient to mental illness and motivated to engage in activities that promote wellbeing, such as physical exercise.

An outward-focused approach, highlighting how work serves a greater good, enhances work meaningfulness and engagement. When creating job descriptions, assigning projects, and setting career goals, leaders should emphasize the positive impact of employees’ contributions on others. Encouraging employees to recognize the significance of their work in fulfilling their need for meaning fosters mental health and overall wellbeing in the workplace.


Prioritizing mental wellbeing in the workplace isn’t just about ticking boxes; it’s a continuous improvement and commitment journey. By investing in strategies that support employees’ mental health, organizations create a more positive and productive work environment and foster a culture of empathy, resilience, and growth. This holistic approach benefits individual employees and contributes to the long-term success and sustainability of the organization.



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