Mental health at work matters, not only for employee well-being, but also for employers who want to run a successful organization that achieves business results.

Depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy $1 trillion each year in lost productivity, according to a recent study led by the World Health Organization. Mental health concerns can also affect physical health, contributing to chronic and debilitating conditions that keep adults out of the workforce.

In a recent survey by the American Psychological Association, nearly 1 in 5 U.S. workers, or 16 percent, said mental health problems such as depression or anxiety kept them from achieving their goals at work.

 A lack of support

The survey revealed that just 50 percent of workers said their employer provides the resources necessary to meet their mental health needs.

“Building psychological health into workplace wellness efforts goes a long way toward helping employees and organizations thrive.”

“Most employers recognize the importance of keeping employees healthy, but workplace wellness programs often focus narrowly on physical activity and nutrition,” says David Ballard, Psy.D., MBA, who leads APA’s Center for Organizational Excellence. “Mental health is often overlooked and, as a result, employees don’t get the support they need.”

APA’s annual Work and Well-Being Survey provides a snapshot of the U.S. workforce, including employee well-being and attitudes and opinions related to workplace policies and practices. The 2018 survey highlights the critical importance of employee mental health. Workers who said their employer provides adequate mental health resources were five times more likely to say their employer helps them to develop and maintain a healthy lifestyle overall.

Surprising results

The survey found links between employer-provided mental health resources and a variety of employee and organizational outcomes. For employees who reported having access to adequate mental health resources, almost 9 in 10 said they feel motivated to do their best and report job satisfaction. These employees were also about three times more likely to say they would recommend their company as a good place to work, reported less stress at work, and were less likely to intend on leaving their job in the next year.

“Workers clearly benefit when employers provide necessary mental health benefits and a culture that supports psychological well-being,” Ballard says. But it’s also a smart business strategy.

“Chronic work stress, insufficient mental health resources, feeling overworked and under supported — these are issues facing too many workers, but it doesn’t have to be this way,” Ballard continues. “Building psychological health into workplace wellness efforts goes a long way toward helping employees and organizations thrive.”