How culture impacts on mental health in the workplace 


Focusing on company culture will help you tackle the root causes of poor mental health at work.

Our Health on Demand research shows that employees who feel supported by their employer are more productive, better engaged, and less likely to leave their jobs.

Unfortunately, the last few years have impacted workplace mental health significantly, while mental health issues outside of work, such as the increased cost of living, are also having a negative impact.

17% of people now feel highly or extremely stressed in their everyday life. A further 32% feel somewhat stressed. A quarter of employees (24%) are financially worse off and one in five (20%) feel lonelier or more isolated than before, making mental health issues the biggest cause of absence and presenteeism.

A company culture that acknowledges these pressures on employees can mitigate mental health risks. For example, one in two people who felt supported by their employer during the pandemic reported a mostly positive experience, compared to just one in four who felt unsupported.

Critical to creating a company culture that supports mental health in the workplace is taking a joined-up approach. Instead of just helping people to recover when they get sick, employers also need to help them stay healthy. This requires looking at the underlying issues driving poor mental health at your organization, then putting preventative solutions in place to create a culture where people can thrive.

A joined-up approach to workplace mental health

Create a company culture where people can thrive with timely access to mental health treatment and help to stay healthy. Including preventative mental health at work support.

Categories of mental health benefits:

  • Prevention

  • Support at work

  • Access treatment and coverage

  • Support away from work

Mental health in the workplace starts from the top 

There is a saying that when a flower doesn’t bloom, you need to fix the environment, not the flower. Meaning to create an environment where people can thrive, you need to look at creating genuine culture change, starting by ensuring managers know how to design work in a way that allows mental health in the workplace to thrive.

Six management standards to boost mental health in the workplace

  • Demands

    People are given adequate and achievable work based on their abilities.
  • Control

    Individuals have a say over how they do their work and their deadlines.
  • Relationships

    Employees have good working relationships and support one another.
  • Role

    It’s clear what’s expected of people and the goal posts aren’t being changed.
  • Change

    Change and the need for change is effectively communicated.
  • Support

    Managers understand their duty of care and how to direct people to support.

To see if the standards are being actioned, measure the impact of mental health issues on well-being, attendance and productivity.

This information can then be used to inform policies based on the underlying factors impacting on your workforce.

Mental health at work benefits to create a caring culture

As well as addressing issues undermining mental health at work, it’s also important to look at what’s helping people stay healthy.

According to our Health on Demand research into what employees want, three in five (60%) employees say flexible working is highly valuable to their wellbeing. Over half (54%) value policies and practices that create a healthy work environment and a strong sense of community (53%). One in two (50%) want support with mental health, resilience and personal relationship concerns.

Digital solutions are also helping to increase access to mental health support. Nearly half of employees (47%) see the opportunity to have a video chat with a therapist as very valuable. The same percentage highly value tools that help them build mindfulness and resilience skills to better cope with pressure. 

More than a third of employees (38%) see a lot of value in accessing mental health advice powered by artificial intelligence (AI). Nearly half of all employees see virtual support groups for those who are feeling lonely and isolated as very valuable. 45% of employees value tools that provide training in how to identify and support others facing mental health challenges. Such as manager training regarding mental health.

Overall, access to mental health benefits was found to positively impact on how supported employees feel. Two thirds (64%) of employees with access to mental health benefits feel very well supported, compared to less than half (44%) of those without.

Of employees who have access to mental health benefits through their employers:


of employees with access to mental health benefits report feeling very well supported vs. 44% of those without access.


of employees with access to mental health benefits say they are less likely to leave the company vs. 27% of those without access.

Create a psychologically safe workplace

Essential to boosting mental health in the workplace is creating psychologically safe cultures where people feel safe being themselves at work without fear of judgement.

Unfortunately, stigma surrounding many issues, including mental health, means many people feel they can’t bring their whole selves to work.

Many parents feel unable to discuss their childcare commitments and younger workers struggle to admit how lonely they are. While 79% of LGBTQ+ staff have experienced a mental illness where work was the cause or factor, four out of five (81%) people say they don't feel comfortable discussing their mental health challenges with others.

Making it safe for people to be themselves at work not only boosts mental health at work, it also boosts productivity. A major study by Google into what was making some teams more effective than others showed that teams with high psychological safety exceeded their targets by 17% on average. While those with low psychological safety missed their targets by 19% on average.

Inclusive benefits designed to normalize taboo topics can help with this and make all employees feel valued. Helping you to create a more diverse workforce so you can better respond to the needs of the many customers facing these issues.

Case study: Professional services firm tackles mental health crisis

When a Professional Services company observed an increase in the number of employees being referred to psychiatrists, and a nearly 2% increase in the number of private medical claims for mental health conditions, it wanted to do more to understand and address the key health risks facing its people.

After working in partnership with Mercer to review its mental health management, the company was able to introduce a psychological pathway solution. This not only directs people towards counsellors and onsite cognitive behavioral therapists as needed, but also provides valuable insights into the working environment and inherent challenges driving poor mental health. Stakeholders then discuss the newly established outcome data during regular calls to identify ways of creating a culture of health. 

Two years post implementation, there has been a nearly 10% reduction in the number of mental health claims to the healthcare plan, a 13% reduction in the total cost of claims for employees and a 16% reduction in the average cost of claims. Employees in need of support are being identified more quickly and better integration of services has enabled the company to leverage the value of the investment made in the pathway. 

Three ways to improve mental health in the workplace

Look at how mental health affects business resilience

Put processes in place to look at how mental illness affects business resilience productivity, engagement and safety. Then use the data to identify what the priorities are and the business case to tackle this.

Create a management culture that supports mental health

Tackle the underlying issues driving poor mental health at work. Not least by tackling mental health stigmas in the culture, through leadership, communication and manager training.

Offer diverse mental health programs

Diversify your mental health programs and insurance coverage to support those most in need. Instead of just offering support to higher paid employees, focus on both prevention as well as cure.

Health on Demand 2023. Benefits for all: The secret to thriving employees and thriving businesses

Our study looks at the views of over 17,000 employees across the world, helping you to understand the lives and priorities of your workforce; how to energize, reassure and care for them in the most relevant ways, inspiring your organization to thrive.
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