February 23, 2024

The Business Case for Workplace Mental Health

Stephen Massey
Director, Health Action Alliance

Anxiety and depression are major drivers of absenteeism and turnover. Investments in workplace mental health can help workers, and your business, thrive.

An overwhelming majority of employers acknowledge that workplace mental health must be a priority for the well-being of their workers and for the health of their business. 

  • 86% now list mental health as a top concern, according to a 2022 survey by Willis Towers Watson.

  • Four in five companies either have a mental health action plan in place (35%) or are considering one (48%).

Why it matters: Mental illness is the single greatest cause of worker disability worldwide—and the COVID-19 pandemic has added to mental health challenges. Our mental health affects how we show up for work, and whether we show up at all:

  • Employees who are depressed miss nearly 5 days of work every 3 months, and up to 25 days more per year than other workers.
  • Depression also results in 11.5 days of reduced productivity every 3 months, including impaired performance for 1-2 hours of every 8-hour shift.
  • 62% of missed work days are attributed to burnout, depression or anxiety.
  • For every employee experiencing mental distress, employers incur $15,000 per year in lost productivity, health care costs and turnover. (You can estimate the financial impact of mental health in your workplace using the National Safety Council’s Cost Calculator.) 
  • 50% of full-time U.S. workers have left a previous job due, at least in part, to mental health reasons.

The good news: Investing in workplace mental health not only improves the lives of your employees, it also makes smart business sense. Employers see a $4 return for every dollar invested in employee mental health support and treatment. 

  • The incentive for investing in workplace mental health goes beyond the costs you’ll recover in productivity and retention. It’s also what workers expect. Seventy-six percent of workers believe their company should do more to support their mental health. Efforts to champion workplace mental health can improve employees’ sense of purpose, boost customer loyalty and attract values-based investors. 

Great gains don’t have to come at great cost: According to a 2021 Mind Share Partners survey, the mental health resource employees wanted most was a “more open” mental health culture at work. 

  • In a separate survey by the American Psychological Association, “regularly recognizing employees” was just as important to workers as additional mental health resources. 

Moving to Action: The Role of the Employer

As an employer, you are responsible for identifying work-related causes of mental health stress and reducing them through institutional and cultural change. Leaders across the business community—from CEOs and C-suite executives to human resource professionals and line managers—can take meaningful actions to create more supportive environments for everyone. And, for employees who need professional care, you can provide resources and benefits to make it easier for them to access treatment. 

Taking action to address workplace mental health is a clear path to a healthier workforce and a stronger, more resilient business.

Hear from Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan and other leaders from the business community at the Workplace Mental Health Action Summit on Thursday, May 5. Attendees will be the first to receive a suite of employer resources to help them take action. Register today!