Workplace Mental Health Trends and Key Insights 2023

Group of business colleagues having a headache while working on laptop.

Workplace mental health refers to the mental well-being of employees in a work environment, including workplace culture, stress levels, job satisfaction, and support from employers and colleagues. Positive workplace culture fosters a sense of value and support among employees, leading to better productivity and reduced absenteeism. When an individual is mentally healthy, they experience a positive mental state, enabling them to be more creative, willing to learn, try out new things, and take risks. 

Here are some workplace trends and key insights for 2023.

Mental Health of Employees Impacts Overall Success of the Company 

According to the World Health Organization,  depression and anxiety cost the global economy $1 trillion US Dollars each year in lost productivity. Mental health in the workplace is not only important for the well-being of employees, but it also has a significant impact on the success of a business. Younger employees (between the ages of 18 and 29) are more likely to leave their jobs for mental health reasons compared to their older counterparts. And it’s not just the junior employees who are affected by mental health challenges, even senior leaders and CEOs struggle with mental health symptoms just like anyone else in the workplace. 

According to a recent Gallup survey, poor workplace mental health costs US organizations over $48 billion each year in lost productivity, absenteeism, and healthcare costs. These statistics clearly indicate the importance of a positive workplace that can positively impact mental health. A negative workplace culture can lead to issues like stress, burnout, and depression, with negative impacts on employees and organizations.  

A recent study by CV-Library UK revealed, 89% of employees who experience mental health issues reported that it has an adverse effect on their professional life. Of these, more than 50% have thought about leaving their jobs because of the negative effects on their mental health.

COVID-19 was a Wake-Up Call to Recognize Workplace Mental Health & Issues 

According to a recent survey by KFF/CNN, three years after the COVID-19 pandemic, concerns about mental health still high, and 90% of U.S. adults think that the nation is currently experiencing a mental health catastrophe. 

The COVID-19 epidemic has also highlighted the need for attention to workplace mental health as many businesses closed or downsized leaving more than half of the world’s population unemployed or on the line of losing their job soon. The shift to remote work and the need to balance work and personal life has resulted in increased stress, burnout, and anxiety among workers. Creating a supportive work environment that prioritizes employee mental health should be a significant investment for companies. 

“Well into the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, reports confirm that the levels of anxiety, stress and depression especially among health and care workers have become a ‘pandemic within a pandemic,” said Jim Campbell, WHO Director of Health Workforce. 

A smiling woman sitting in an office notebook

Workplace Mental Health Taboo is Finally Breaking 

Mental health has become a hot topic in recent years, with more and more people opening up about their struggles. Even famous singers, actors, and athletes are speaking out about their experiences. Michael Phelps, the Olympic gold medalist has been candid about his battle with depression, while Lady Gaga, another famed musician and actor shared what it’s like to live with PTSD. Prince Harry has also joined the conversation, speaking up about his own struggles with anxiety. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson DC comic Black Adam star has also talked about how he manages his depression, emphasizing the importance of realizing that you’re not alone in your struggles. 

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson : In an interview with Men’s Health in November, Johnson openly said that asking for help is nothing to be ashamed of, and it is essential to request help when one does not know something. He revealed that exercising at the gym had aided him in managing his mental health and obtaining mental clarity. 

Prince Harry: During a February event for the mental fitness Harry told Serena Williams that he spends approximately 30 to 45 minutes in the morning for self-care which includes taking his dog for a walk, meditating, or spending time with his children.

Lady Gaga: Lady Gaga expressed the importance of erasing the stigma surrounding mental health medication in an interview with Oprah. She added, “There is a lot of shame attached to mental illness, but it’s important that you know that there is hope and a chance for recovery.” 

Michael Phelps: Michael Phelps, the most decorated American Olympian faced depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and substance use issues, receiving multiple DUIs. In 2014, Phelps sought treatment and has since spoken about how therapy helped him see himself as more than just a swimmer and learn to love and accept himself as a person.

According to Mental Health Foundation UK, 63% of respondents believe that when individuals show kindness, it can have a beneficial influence on their mental health. Additionally, the same percentage agrees that extending kindness to others can also have a positive impact on their own mental wellbeing. By fostering open discussions about mental health, workplaces can create a more compassionate and psychologically secure environment. 

Workplace Mental Health is Still a Taboo in Developing Countries 

In many developing countries like Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh, workplace mental health is often neglected. A lack of awareness and understanding around mental health issues can lead to stigma and discrimination, making it difficult for employees to seek help and support. According to WHO reports, employees in these countries felt that their workplace did not take mental health seriously, and over 50% felt that they would not be able to speak openly about their mental health concerns with their employer. 

This treatment gap is about 70%- 90%. Countries with low income typically have less than one psychiatrist per every 100,000 people. Not to mention, psychiatric care is commonly underfunded. For example, in 2015, India spent less than 1% of its health budget on mental health care. 

In contrast, in developed countries like USA and Germany, there is generally greater awareness and understanding around mental health issues in the workplace. Employers in these countries are more likely to prioritize employee well-being, offering a range of support and resources to help employees manage their mental health. It was found that employers in these countries offered some form of mental health support to their employees, compared to employers in developing countries. 

Despite this, even in developed nations, there is still much work to be done to improve workplace mental health. According to American Psychological Association (APA), almost 71% of Americans or every third person reported work as a significant source of stress in their lives. This highlights the need for continued efforts to improve workplace mental health and promote employee well-being. 

Woman covered with blindfold

Toxic Workplace Can Lead to Depression and Suicide  

According to the most recent survey conducted by Deloitte UK, 61% of UK employees who quit their jobs within the past year or who intend to do so within the next 12 months mentioned poor mental health as a reason. 

There is generally greater access to mental health services in developed countries, including counseling and therapy, as well as resources such as employee assistance programs. This is often not the case in developing countries like India and Pakistan, where mental health services may be limited, and there may be a shortage of mental health professionals. 

In 2021, over 42 thousand daily wage earners committed suicide in India. Followed by over 23 thousand home makers who committed suicide. 

The Cost of Ignoring Mental Health in the Workplace 

Workplace culture can also differ significantly between developed and developing countries like Germany and India. For instance, in Germany there is often a greater emphasis on work-life balance, flexible working arrangements, and employee well-being. This is reflected in workplace policies and practices, as well as attitudes towards mental health. In contrast, in developing countries, the focus may be more on productivity and meeting targets, with less consideration for employee well-being. 

Nearly 15% of the global mental health burden is borne by India. 80% of Indian workers reported having mental health issues in the past year, according to the survey by (WHO). 

How Economic Factors Affect Workplace Well-being 

Economic factors can also play a role in workplace mental health. In countries like USA, Norway or France, there may be greater job security and better wages and benefits, which can reduce financial stress and anxiety. But in countries like India, Pakistan and even in China, employees may be working in low-paying jobs with limited job security, which can create financial stress and impact mental health. 

In 2022, employers in India were projected to incur a cost of approximately 1,100 billion Indian rupees due to employee mental health issues. 

How Cultural Norms Affect Mental Health in the Workplace 

Social factors such as cultural norms and beliefs can also impact workplace mental health. In developing nations, there may be cultural taboos around mental health issues, which can make it difficult for employees to seek help or discuss their mental health concerns. In developed countries, there may be more openness and acceptance around mental health, which can make it easier for employees to seek support. 

Minority groups in the US are less likely to receive timely mental health treatment, Hispanic and Asian populations report the lowest rates of having a regular healthcare provider, at 58% and 60%, respectively, which can result in delaying treatment until symptoms become severe. 

Rahul Bains, an IT Manager of East Indian descent, shared his cultural perspective on mental health, stating that people associated mental health issues with karma, religion, or supernatural causes, leading to religious “treatments” and the belief that if it cannot be cured, it is God’s will. 

Globally, there is an increasing awareness of the importance of promoting employee well-being and supporting mental health in the workplace. Therefore, it’s crucial for companies to prioritize mental health and create a supportive work environment that addresses the mental health needs of everyone, from entry-level employees to top executives. By doing so, companies can improve the overall health and productivity of their workforce, leading to greater success for the business as a whole. 

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