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Mental Health in the Workplace: The Most Effective Practices

Every year, mental health issues like depression and anxiety contribute to major losses in productivity. Statistics by the World Health Organization show that an estimated 12 billion working days are lost each year, which amounts to losses worth $1 trillion. And the inverse is true as well. Research indicates a link between improved mental health and a reduction in productivity losses.

As a result, many workplaces are trying to implement new practices as a way to improve employees’ mental health. This goes beyond offering bigger bonuses that prioritize working longer hours – which can have a negative effect on mental health in the long term. Let’s look at some of the best practices that can improve mental health in the workplace.

Offering a Robust Employee Assistance Program

According to one meta-analysis on peer research, one of the best practices includes incorporating an Employee Assistance Program. This is a work-based intervention program meant to help employees resolve problems that affect their performance.

Traditionally, these voluntary programs assisted workers with problems like substance use, but they cover a range of issues nowadays. These include relationship troubles, child or elder care, financial troubles, legal issues, and events like workplace harassment.

These programs are offered to employees at no cost by individual EAP providers or vendors who offer services as part of health insurance plans.

Introduce Financial Well-being Programs

For many people, financial problems like debts are a major source of anxiety and depression. The results of one study reported that participants who were in debt were 1.9 times more likely to have experienced suicidal thoughts. Offering financial well-being programs as part of EAPs can help employees manage their money and pay off their debt to alleviate stress.

Programs To Report and Prevent Behavioral Issues

Workplace violence, discrimination, and sexual harassment are linked to a higher risk of developing mental health issues like depression and anxiety. It’s quite common for facilities offering depression treatment for women to provide therapy for workplace harassment-related trauma.

To prevent issues of discrimination, violence, and harassment in the workplace, companies can roll out specific programs to help employees report such cases. These policies can also prevent such events from occurring, which ensures that employees feel safe at the workplace.

Infrastructure That Supports Mental and Physical Health

Implementing an infrastructure that supports employees’ physical and mental health is an effective practice that can lead to improved outcomes in productivity.

Healthy Snacks

Offering healthier snack options in the break room as opposed to potato chips and soda can allow employees to make better food choices. Considering how nutrition is linked to mental health, offering options besides refined carbohydrates and high-sodium foods is a step in the right direction.


These foods and caffeine can exacerbate symptoms of anxiety. Meanwhile, snacks like dried fruit, nuts, and whole wheat sandwiches can provide important nutrients for mental health.

Break Rooms

Various studies point to a link between taking breaks and employee well-being. However, research also shows that employees’ perception of the break room can improve engagement at work. This, in turn, improves psychological well-being.

Break rooms provide employees with the opportunity to step away from their desks and take a break. Getting up to take a break instead of staying at one’s desk can help your physical and mental functional systems return to their baseline. Not to mention, it can reset your mood and alleviate overall stress.

Leadership Training on Mental Health Awareness

Mental health issues can be exacerbated when people fail to identify the signs and seek early interventions. Therefore, an effective practice to improve mental health in the workplace involves providing mental health training for managers.

Trained managers can understand workplace conditions that contribute to poor mental health. To some extent, they can also make adjustments for employees struggling with issues like anxiety and depression. Mental health training equips managers with the skills to have effective conversations with employees and implement early interventions. This, in turn, helps reduce absences while providing a return on investment.

Include Mindfulness Practices and Other Initiatives

As part of their plan to improve employees’ mental well-being, workplaces can roll out initiatives like breaks for mindfulness meditation and yoga classes. These provide employees with a space to relax and cope with work-related stress. In addition to being highly effective, these initiatives require few resources to set up.

Other practices that could potentially improve employees’ well-being include volunteering opportunities and support groups. These provide an environment for social connectedness.

Setting Clear Expectations and Providing Feedback

For many employees, work-related stress is a contributor to poor mental health and a higher risk of conditions like anxiety disorder. In this case, clearer work expectations and strength-based performance feedback can improve their mental health. By focusing on employees’ strengths and showing them where they can improve, they’ll have a better understanding of how they can perform better.

Inclusive Health Plan

If your company-sponsored health insurance doesn’t cover mental health, perhaps it’s time to include it. While some workplaces can provide full coverage for services, others may not. Even so, providing affordable access to mental health services is a step in the right direction.


And if your company does offer mental health services as part of the plan, employees should be given information. Having a meeting with employees to detail what the plan does and doesn’t cover can provide clarity. This means mentioning which providers are in-network and what services they cover, such as medication, therapist visits, or inpatient treatment.


To sum it up, mental health plays a pivotal role in employees’ ability to perform at work. Therefore, workplaces need to implement best practices as a way to improve employees’ well-being. This includes offering an employee assistance program, initiatives like mindfulness meditation, and providing positive feedback on performance. Moreover, setting up infrastructure to improve well-being, such as break rooms and healthy snack options, allows employees to enhance productivity. While implementing these practices isn’t possible overnight, workplaces can begin by making small changes.