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Mind Matters: Exploring Mental Health at Work [2023 Study]

Are you struggling with work-related stress and burnout? You’re not the only one. Here’s a dose of knowledge on mental health status in today’s challenging work environment.

Dominique Goldschmitt
Dominique Goldschmitt
Career Expert
Mind Matters: Exploring Mental Health at Work [2023 Study]

 

Exploring Mental Health at Work

 

I feel overworked. Why? The project is almost over. 

 

I’m burned out. Stop! It’s just a buzzword.

 

My workplace is a toxic environment. Are you kidding?

 

You’re exaggerating. You’re making things up. It’s not that bad at all… Sound familiar? 

 

This is how our mental health gets ignored at work. It’s as if our mental health is nothing more than an afterthought, a footnote. At the same time, stress, anxiety, long hours, and pushing yourself to the limits are the prices of productivity and success.

 

These take a heavy toll on the mental well-being of workers. 

Unfortunately, though, there is no magical pill or quick fix to a person’s mental health. Moreover, such conditions are often swept under the rug or ignored altogether. Demanding deadlines, toxic environments, and constant pressure can wear us down, leaving us feeling depleted and drained. But we soldier on, day after day, hoping for a glimmer of relief.

 

To get to the bottom of real-world experiences, we surveyed 1,000 employees to examine:

 

 

Key findings:

 

  • 66% of respondents have experienced work-induced mental health problems in the past two years.
  • 68% of people have taken time off work because of a mental health condition.
  • 59% felt that their mental health condition hindered career advancement.
  • 68% felt disclosing a mental health condition would harm their professional reputation.
  • 73% believe that having a low salary contributes to mental health problems.
  • 58% feel mentally or emotionally unsafe in the workplace.
  • Nearly one-third of respondents agree that the opportunity to take mental health days would positively change their well-being.
  • But there’s more. Embark on an enlightening journey as we delve into the intricate world of mental health, exploring its impact on individuals, society, and the workplace.

 

The overall status of mental health

 

The overall status of mental health

 

It’s crucial to understand the state of mental health among individuals to identify the prevalence of such issues and discuss them effectively. So let’s start with the basics. 

 

52% of respondents rate their mental condition as good, and 25% as very good. That’s a total of 77% enjoying positive mental well-being. 

 

17% rate their mental health as neither good nor bad, just neutral. 

Only a small percentage of respondents admit to struggling with problems. 6% said their mental condition is bad or very bad.

 

But reporting good overall well-being does not mean that people are free of mental illnesses. When asked, “How are you doing?” the default response is, “I’m fine.” The answers were very different when we pushed people to be specific about their mental state.

 

53% of respondents admit they currently have a mental illness.

 

Who are those individuals?

 

  • They’re women more frequently than men, 59% vs. 48%.
  • Healthcare (59%) and business and finance workers (60%) suffer from mental illness most often, compared to software/IT specialists (35%).
  • Mental illnesses are more common among master’s degree holders than people with bachelor’s degrees, 73% vs. 42%.

 

Additionally, 66% of employees report having experienced work-induced mental health problems in the past year or two.

 

  • Looking at different demographics, women are just as likely as men to experience mental health deterioration due to work, 66% vs. 67%.
  • People with 6–10 years of work experience complain of work-induced mental problems more than workers with 1–2 years of experience, 72% vs. 55%.
  • 75% of executive or C-suite employers deal with work-related mental health problems, compared to 67% of team managers.

 

And it’s not just depression but stress, anxiety, lowered mood, anger, and irritability.

 

Seeing such a high percentage of people struggle with such an essential aspect of life is concerning. Work should provide us with self-realization, development, and finances to fulfill our needs. Instead, it makes us unhappy. 

 

And people aren’t exaggerating or making things up.

 

94% of those suffering from a mental illness have been diagnosed by a medical professional.

 

On the one hand, it shows that people know their problems and when to go to a specialist. On the other hand, this highlights the need for greater awareness and access to mental health resources and services.

But what makes people’s mental health deteriorate in the first place? 

 

With the help of our respondents, we created a list of reasons for work-related mental health struggles.

 

  • Work pressure – 49%
  • Excessive workloads – 42%
  • Job insecurity – 40%
  • Long working hours or overtime – 39%
  • Toxic environment – 37%
  • Low salary – 35%
  • Discrimination or bullying – 29%
  • Unsafe or poor working conditions – 24%

Unfortunately, this list of reasons is not surprising, but it’s crucial to acknowledge and address these issues. While work pressure tops the list, little separates the next few factors. 

 

So excessive workload can make our health suffer as much as long working hours and a toxic environment.

 

The repercussions of mental health battles are undeniably grave. They include:

 

  • Making mistakes – 41%
  • Stress and anxiety – 39%
  • Lower productivity and motivation – 33%
  • Conflicts at work – 32%
  • Increased absenteeism – 31%
  • Quitting/being fired – 30%
  • Decreased job satisfaction – 29%
  • Burnout – 25%

Making mistakes and stress and anxiety create a domino effect on people’s careers. And it’s alarming to see they’re the top two results of mental health deterioration. However, it's important to remember that the other consequences are also severe and shouldn't be ignored.

 

But with proper help and support, all obstacles can be overcome without harm to mental health, right?

 

Mental health support & benefits

With that in mind, let’s move to our research findings. 

 

Mental health support and benefits

 

To start the conversation about benefits and mental health support, we asked respondents how satisfied they were with the benefits provided by their employers. 

 

An overwhelming 77% of respondents expressed satisfaction or high satisfaction with their organizations’ efforts in addressing mental health. 17% remained neutral, neither satisfied nor dissatisfied. However, a small percentage of 5% said their company’s mental health benefits are unsatisfactory.

 

Only 1% of respondents say their employers don’t provide mental health benefits and resources.

This is a positive sign that more and more organizations are taking the mental health of their employees seriously.

 

While progress has been made, there is always room for improvement.

 

That’s why we asked what else can be done to better support employees’ mental health. As a result, we found out that organizations can:

 

  • Provide access to mental health benefits, e.g., therapy, counseling, and mental health apps – 44%
  • Offer wellness programs, e.g., yoga, mindfulness training – 41%
  • Create a supportive culture – 41%
  • Eliminate workplace stressors, e.g., unrealistic deadlines, poor management – 39%
  • Foster social connections – 38%
  • Offer flexible work arrangements – 37%
  • Ensure fair and equal treatment – 37%

 

The findings suggest various effective strategies organizations can employ to create a supportive and healthy work environment. The differences between the measures shown in the ranking are relatively small. But providing access to mental health benefits and resources topped the list, closely followed by offering wellness programs and a creative, supportive culture. And this is what we recommend HR departments should focus on first. 

 

But stepping outside the pattern of the usual and commonly known mental health benefits, what more would employees want? What would have the most significant positive impact on workers’ mental health?

 

  • Being able to take mental health days – 31%
  • Enhanced mental health benefits such as counseling and apps – 24%
  • A significant pay raise (30% or more) – 19%
  • A four-day workweek – 17%
  • Changing overall workplace culture to respect and sustain mental health – 8%

 

This suggests that employees recognize the importance of taking time off to prioritize their mental well-being and recharge. 

 

Additional benefits, like counseling and mental health apps, might seem expensive, but considering depression and anxiety cost $1 trillion annually in lost productivity, they could be a great investment. Furthermore, research has shown that a four-day working week can increase well-being without negatively impacting productivity. This type of work arrangement can improve employees' mental health, promote work-life balance, and reduce stress levels, ultimately benefiting both employees and employers.

 

Let’s also point out financial issues. While a significant pay raise may not address mental health concerns directly, it’s still crucial in supporting employee well-being. Financial stress can contribute to mental health issues, so offering fair compensation can help to alleviate this stress.

But all that you have read about so far is theory. Now let’s look at the practice. 

 

Mental health in practice

 

Mental health in practice

 

71% of respondents have taken advantage of mental health support offered by their employer.

And who is the least willing to use that support?

 

  • Men are less willing than women. 34% have never taken advantage, vs. 24% of women.
  • Software/IT sector workers compared to business and finance, 40% vs. 18%.
  • 35% of Republicans have never used mental health support resources offered by employers, compared to 20% of independent-leaning respondents. 
  • Does age matter? 38% of young workers (25 or younger) have never used such resources, compared to 25% of 41 or older employees. 

 

Overall, that’s a positive sign that employees are willing to utilize the mental health resources provided by their employers. It shows a growing recognition of the importance of mental health and a willingness to seek help when needed. 

 

But still, almost one-third of the research participants decided not to use any form of employer-provided mental health support. 

 

And they had good reasons for that, including:

 

  • Decided to seek help (e.g., therapy) within own means – 42%
  • Thought the support offered by the employer would not be effective – 34%
  • Were ashamed – 27%
  • Didn't need it – 27%
  • Were afraid of repercussions (e.g., no promotion, no pay rise) – 24%
  • Were afraid of stigma/discrimination – 21%

 

There’s nothing wrong with seeking help on your own. But a few of these reasons were alarming. Feeling ashamed and fearing repercussions, stigma, or discrimination should force organizations to consider their culture. No one should feel shame or fear about seeking help, and it’s important to continue advocating for open dialogue and understanding around mental health in the workplace.

 

But it’s not only therapy or employer-provided benefits that matter. Employees often reach for a fundamental measure when fighting mental problems—sick leave or days off.

Again, this underscores the importance of taking a break from work when you’re struggling.

Interestingly, many respondents have never taken time off work due to mental health problems. They include:

 

  • 40% of bachelor’s degree holders, compared to 18% of workers with master’s degrees.
  • 41% of Republicans compared to 24% of independent-leaning respondents. 
  • 44% of respondents with 11+ years of experience have never taken time off because of a mental health condition, compared to 27% of workers with 3–5 years of working experience. 
  • 43% of employees in companies with 500+ workers, compared to 25% in smaller firms with 51–200 employees.
  • Any sector differences? 43% of software/IT specialists have never taken days off due to mental health problems, compared to 27% of business and finance workers. 

 

But it’s not all as bad as you might think based on the presented statistics.

 

76% of workers are generally satisfied or very satisfied with their work-life balance. 

 

So it seems that people have developed effective coping mechanisms.

 

Moreover, 65% of survey takers have received training or education on dealing with their mental health problems independently.

 

However, it is essential to note that self-care and training may not always be sufficient for addressing mental health issues.

 

A supportive work environment is still necessary. 

 

Approach to mental health 

 

Approach to mental health

 

Mental health issues affect people from all walks of life, and it’s crucial to address these challenges with sensitivity and care. Suppose the environment in which we spend 8 hours a day, 5 days a week (or more) does not support people facing mental health problems. In that case, it can harm their overall well-being, leading to reduced productivity, increased absenteeism, and even resignations. Therefore, organizations must prioritize and invest in creating a supportive and stigma-free workplace culture that addresses the mental health needs of their employees.

 

So how much support do employees get?

 

79% of respondents feel that their company supports their mental health. 

 

Additionally, the majority can count on an understanding work atmosphere.

 

70% believe that their coworkers and their boss/manager are considerate of employees’ mental health problems. 

 

The stigma surrounding mental health often makes people hesitant to speak out about their struggles in the workplace. But for most respondents, mental health issues are not taboo.

 

The majority of workers, 68%, report feeling comfortable or very comfortable talking about their mental health issues with their coworkers, and 66% feel the same way about discussing these issues with their boss or manager.

 

But talking about problems does not always mean we fully understand our colleagues’ situations.

 

60% of respondents said they felt like their employer or colleagues were ignoring their mental health condition.

 

This suggests that while there may be an increased awareness and openness around mental health in the workplace, there’s still work to be done to ensure that employees feel genuinely supported and understood. Employers must foster a culture of empathy and support and provide resources and training that help employees better understand and respond to mental health concerns.

 

And while it’s encouraging to see so many people feeling comfortable discussing mental health issues, around a third aren’t comfortable discussing their struggles. The impacts can be significant for those who don’t get the support they need.

 

Mental health as a barrier

So if you’ve ever doubted it, think again, mental health can be a barrier to successful career and professional development. 

 

Mental health as a barrier

 

59% of respondents reported feeling their mental health was a barrier to career advancement. 

 

  • 65% of women vs. 54% of men felt their mental health hindered their career growth.
  • 73% of business and finance sector workers shared the same feeling, compared to “only” 45% of software/IT specialists.
  • Master’s degree holders were more likely to feel their mental health could be a barrier than bachelor’s degree holders, 70% vs. 53%.

 

60% of respondents reported feeling discriminated against due to their mental health conditions in the workplace.

 

  • Workers with 3–5 years of experience feel more discriminated against due to their mental health than those with 11+ years of experience, 66% vs. 47%.
  • The company's size matters. 64% of workers in companies with 1–50 or 51–200 employees report discrimination, compared to 45% of people working in businesses with 201–500 workers. 
  • 74% of master’s degree graduates experienced mental health-based discrimination, compared to 51% of bachelors. 

 

In addition, a staggering 68% of respondents expressed concerns that disclosing their mental health condition would harm their professional reputation.

 

  • 74% of women believed so, compared to 61% of men.
  • 74% of employees in smaller companies (51–200) felt that disclosing their mental health condition would harm their professional reputation, compared to 57% of those employed in businesses with 500+ people. 
  • Fear of disclosing the truth about mental health is more common among master’s degree holders than bachelor’s degree graduates, 82% vs. 62%.

 

These statistics demonstrate the fear and stigma surrounding mental health in the workplace. The result? The inability to confront mental health problems for fear of repercussions.

 

The remedy? A more inclusive and accepting work environment where employees are not judged based on their mental health status. Only then can we break down the barriers and achieve true success and growth.

 

But we have more mental health-related statistics for you. We gave our respondents statements about mental health at work and asked how much they agreed or disagreed. The numbers presented show the percentage who either agreed or strongly agreed.

 

  • Emotionally draining (e.g., stressful, overwhelming, or monotonous) work contributes to mental health problems – 70%
  • A lack of personal connection to colleagues contributes to mental health problems – 68%
  • Having a low salary contributes to mental health problems – 73%
  • The thought of work evokes negative feelings and associations – 63%
  • I feel mentally or emotionally unsafe in the workplace – 58%
  • My overall working environment negatively impacts my mental health – 61%

 

This final finding confirms that various factors contribute to mental health problems in the workplace. Emotionally draining work, a lack of personal connection, a low salary, negative associations with work, feeling mentally or emotionally unsafe, and a negative working environment can all affect mental health.

These factors must be considered by employers and policymakers when developing strategies to improve mental health in the workplace. But they also should serve as a point of reference to all workers on their way to achieving or maintaining good mental health.

 

Methodology

 

The above-presented findings were obtained by surveying 940 respondents online via a bespoke polling tool. They were asked questions about their mental health struggles and their employers' approach to the subject. These included yes/no questions, scale-based questions relating to levels of agreement with a statement, questions that permitted the selection of multiple options from a list of potential answers, and a question that permitted open responses. All respondents included in the study passed an attention-check question.

 

Limitations

 

The data presented relies on self-reports from a randomized group of respondents. Each person who took our survey read and responded to each question without any research administration or interference. There are many potential issues with self-reported data, like selective memory, exaggeration, attribution, or telescoping. Some questions and responses have been rephrased or condensed for readers' clarity and ease of understanding.

 

Fair use statement

 

Want to share the findings of our research? Go ahead. Feel free to use our images and information wherever you wish. Just be transparent and link back to this page, please—–it will let other readers get deeper into the topic.

 

Sources

 

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Dominique Goldschmitt
Dominique Goldschmitt
Dominique is a career expert specializing in resume and cover letter writing advice. Having worked for both start-ups and corporations, she knows all the ins and outs of the recruitment process. At ResumeLab, Dominique shares her knowledge with job seekers at all stages of their career paths, from interns to directors to C-suite members.

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