Mental Health Matters: Why Mental Health In the Workplace Should Be A Leadership Priority

Marissa Newby
13 min readFeb 29, 2024

Pressing Issue

Mental health in the workplace has become a critical issue in today’s fast-paced and demanding work environments. It refers to the psychological well-being of employees and includes their emotional, cognitive, and social state.

Why Mental Health Matters at Work

Mental health at work is extremely important. It affects how well employees perform their jobs, how satisfied they are with their work, and how successful the organization is overall. When employees are having mental health problems, it can lead to:

  1. Lower productivity
  2. More time off from work
  3. Higher turnover rates
  4. More accidents on the job

The purpose of this article is to look closely at how mental health affects how well people sleep and how safe they are at work. We’ll also talk about what leaders can do to make things better.

Now let’s look more closely at how mental health affects sleep and safety at work.

The Connection Between Mental Health, Sleep, and Workplace Safety

Mental health problems at work can greatly affect employee well-being and performance. One specific area where mental health and work overlap is sleep. Sleep troubles are commonly linked to mental health conditions like anxiety and depression, and they can lead to various negative outcomes on the job.

How Mental Health Affects Sleep and Workplace Safety

When employees struggle with mental health issues, they might find it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep throughout the night. This can cause sleep deprivation, which impairs thinking skills and raises the chance of accidents at work.

Studies reveal that people who lack sleep are more prone to:

  1. Make errors
  2. React slowly
  3. Show poor judgment

These effects are especially troubling in safety-focused industries like construction or transportation since they put not just the affected employee but also their colleagues in danger.

According to a report by the National Safety Council:

  • Workers who sleep less than six hours per night are significantly more likely to experience workplace accidents or injuries compared to those who get enough sleep.
  • Sleep deprivation costs U.S. companies over $400 billion every year because of decreased productivity and higher healthcare expenses.

The Impact of Poor Sleep Quality on Workplace Safety

Moreover, getting poor-quality sleep raises the chances of encountering workplace safety risks. Workers showing signs of insomnia have a 60% greater risk of occupational injury compared to those without insomnia symptoms.

These numbers clearly show how mental health, sleep, and workplace safety incidents are closely related. To prevent such incidents and create a safe work atmosphere, employers should implement strategies that prioritize employee mental well-being.

Strategies for Enhancing Employee Mental Health

Here are some approaches organizations can take to support their employees’ mental health:

  1. Implementing stress reduction programs: Offering stress management programs or resources like mindfulness training or counseling services can assist employees in handling their mental health better and reducing its negative impact on sleep.
  2. Promoting work-life balance: Encouraging work-life balance and providing flexible work arrangements can help employees maintain healthy sleep schedules. This could include options like flexible hours, remote work opportunities, and policies discouraging after-work communication.
  3. Educating employees on sleep hygiene: Providing information and tools on sleep hygiene can guide employees in developing habits that encourage good sleep. Workshops, handouts, or access to sleep tracking apps/devices are some ways to deliver this education.

By understanding the connection between mental health, sleep, and workplace safety, organizations can proactively build a supportive culture that improves employee well-being and lowers the risk of accidents. Making mental health a priority and advocating for healthy sleep habits not only benefits individual employees but also contributes to the overall success of the company.

Enhancing Productivity and Well-being Through Mental Health Support

1. Training Managers to Recognize and Respond to Mental Health Challenges

Equipping managers with the right knowledge and skills is crucial for effectively managing mental health issues in their teams. When managers are trained to recognize the signs of mental health challenges, they can create a supportive work environment that fosters open communication and proactive support for employees’ well-being.

Why Managerial Training is Important

Managers play a pivotal role in shaping the work environment and influencing employee experiences. By providing them with training on mental health awareness, intervention strategies, and destigmatization techniques, organizations empower their leaders to address mental health challenges effectively.

How Managerial Training Affects Employee Well-being

When managers are equipped to respond empathetically and effectively to employees experiencing mental health issues, it can lead to increased trust, better support systems, and reduced stigma surrounding mental health in the workplace. This, in turn, contributes to improved overall well-being and job satisfaction among employees.

The Benefits of Creating a Supportive Culture

Training managers to prioritize employee mental health creates a culture where individuals feel valued and supported. This can positively impact employee retention rates, as well as foster a sense of loyalty and commitment to the organization.

Real-Life Example: Bell Canada’s Leadership Initiatives

Bell Canada launched a notable initiative where they provided mental health training to all levels of leadership within the organization. The program aimed to enhance leaders’ understanding of mental health issues, reduce stigma, and promote a supportive workplace culture. As a result, employees reported feeling more comfortable discussing mental health concerns with their managers and accessing necessary support resources.

Investing in training for managers to recognize and respond to mental health challenges is an essential step towards creating a supportive work environment that prioritizes employee mental health. When leaders are equipped with the tools to address these issues effectively, it not only enhances productivity but also contributes to overall well-being within the organization.

2. Promoting Work-Life Balance and Healthy Sleep Habits

Creating a supportive work environment is crucial for promoting positive mental health among employees. One important aspect of this is offering flexible work options that allow employees to achieve a healthy work-life balance and maintain healthy sleep routines.

Why is it important?

  • Flexible work options: By providing flexible work arrangements such as flexible hours, remote work options, or compressed workweeks, organizations can empower employees to better manage their personal responsibilities and allocate time for self-care. This flexibility allows individuals to prioritize their mental health needs without compromising on their professional obligations.
  • Work-life balance: Striking a balance between work and personal life is essential for overall well-being. When employees have the flexibility to attend to personal commitments, spend quality time with loved ones, engage in hobbies, or pursue self-care activities, they are more likely to feel fulfilled and less stressed. This, in turn, positively impacts their mental health and job satisfaction.
  • Sleep hygiene practices: Adequate sleep is vital for maintaining good mental health and cognitive function. Employers can support healthy sleep habits by promoting strategies that improve sleep quality. Some effective practices include:
  • Encouraging employees to establish regular sleep schedules by going to bed and waking up at consistent times.
  • Educating employees on the importance of creating a conducive sleep environment, such as keeping the bedroom dark, quiet, and cool.
  • Discouraging the use of electronic devices before bedtime as the blue light emitted from screens can disrupt sleep.
  • Providing resources or workshops on stress management techniques that can help individuals unwind before bed.

Benefits for Employees

By prioritizing work-life balance and promoting healthy sleep habits, organizations can contribute to the overall well-being of their employees. This not only enhances mental health but also improves productivity and job satisfaction.

Benefits for Employers

For example, a recent study conducted by the American Psychological Association found that employees who reported having a good work-life balance were more engaged, less likely to experience burnout, and had lower levels of stress. Additionally, research has shown that adequate sleep can improve cognitive function and decision-making abilities, leading to better performance in the workplace.

Key Takeaways

Organizations should recognize the importance of promoting work-life balance and healthy sleep habits as part of their efforts to support employee mental health. By offering flexible work options and encouraging practices that prioritize self-care, employers can create a positive work environment that fosters well-being and ultimately contributes to the success of both individuals and the organization as a whole.

Ensuring Accessible Mental Health Care for Employees

In addition to promoting work-life balance and healthy sleep habits, it is crucial for organizations to prioritize accessible mental health care for their employees. This involves advocating for robust mental health coverage in insurance plans and implementing policies that ensure equal access to care.

Importance of Advocating for Parity Between Mental and Physical Health Coverage

Mental health parity refers to treating mental health conditions with the same level of importance as physical health conditions. It aims to eliminate any disparities in insurance coverage between mental and physical health care services. Advocating for mental health parity is essential in ensuring that employees have equal access to the necessary resources and treatment options for their mental well-being.

1. Prevalence of Mental Illnesses

One reason why mental health parity is crucial is because mental illnesses are just as prevalent as physical illnesses. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately one in five adults in the United States experiences a mental illness in a given year. These conditions can significantly impact an individual’s ability to function effectively at work, leading to decreased productivity and increased absenteeism.

2. Breaking Down Barriers to Care

By advocating for mental health parity, organizations can help break down barriers that prevent employees from seeking the care they need. It ensures that individuals have access to a wide range of mental health services, including therapy, counseling, medication management, and other evidence-based treatments. When employees can easily access these resources, they are more likely to address their mental health concerns proactively, leading to improved well-being and job performance.

3. Reducing Stigma

Furthermore, implementing mental health parity also helps reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness. By treating mental health on par with physical health, organizations send a powerful message that seeking help for mental well-being is just as valid and important as seeking help for physical ailments. This can create a culture of acceptance and support within the workplace, encouraging employees to be open about their mental health needs without fear of judgment or discrimination.

Implementing Mental Health Parity

To effectively ensure mental health parity, organizations can:

  1. Work with insurance providers to review their current coverage options and make necessary adjustments.
  2. Collaborate with advocacy groups and policymakers to support the implementation of mental health parity laws at both state and federal levels.

By prioritizing equal access to care, organizations demonstrate their commitment to the well-being of their employees and contribute to creating a mentally healthy workplace.

Note: It’s important to consult legal experts or professionals in your area to understand the specific laws and regulations related to mental health parity.

Implementing Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) with Comprehensive Mental Health Benefits

In addition to advocating for mental health parity in insurance plans, another effective strategy for prioritizing mental health in the workplace is the implementation of Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). These programs offer comprehensive support services for employees’ mental well-being, including counseling and referral programs.

Here are some key points to consider:

  1. Robust Mental Health Coverage: EAPs provide employees with access to a range of mental health benefits, ensuring that they have the resources needed to address their mental health concerns. This includes coverage for therapy sessions, psychiatric consultations, and other mental health treatments.
  2. Insurance Plans and Parity Law: EAPs can work in conjunction with insurance plans that prioritize mental health coverage. By aligning with the requirements of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, these programs help ensure that employees receive equal access to mental health care compared to physical health care. This is particularly important as inadequate insurance coverage can pose significant barriers to employees seeking treatment for their mental health.
  3. Counseling and Referral Programs: EAPs typically offer confidential counseling services where employees can discuss their concerns with trained professionals. These programs may also provide referrals to specialized therapists or psychiatrists based on individual needs. By offering these services, organizations demonstrate their commitment to supporting their employees’ mental well-being and creating a safe space for them to seek help.
  4. Holistic Support Services: EAPs often go beyond just providing therapy sessions. They may offer additional resources such as stress management workshops, resilience training, financial counseling, and wellness programs. These holistic support services address various aspects of employees’ lives and contribute to their overall well-being.
  5. Promoting a Culture of Mental Health Awareness: Implementing an EAP sends a clear message to employees that their mental health matters and is valued by the organization. It fosters a culture of openness and encourages employees to seek help when needed. This can lead to reduced stigma surrounding mental health in the workplace and create an environment where employees feel safe and supported.

By implementing Employee Assistance Programs with comprehensive mental health benefits, organizations demonstrate their commitment to employee well-being. These programs provide employees with the necessary resources and support to address their mental health concerns effectively. In turn, this can lead to increased productivity, improved work performance, and a positive work environment.

Fostering a Positive and Inclusive Organizational Culture for Better Mental Health

1. Encouraging Open Communication and Psychological Safety through Feedback Channels

In today’s fast-paced and competitive work environment, fostering open communication and psychological safety is essential for supporting employees’ mental well-being. When individuals feel safe to express their thoughts and concerns without fear of judgment or reprisal, it cultivates a positive and inclusive organizational culture that benefits everyone.

Importance of Open Communication

Open communication channels create avenues for employees to:

  • Voice their mental health challenges
  • Seek support
  • Contribute to a supportive work environment

By encouraging feedback mechanisms such as:

  1. Suggestion boxes
  2. Anonymous surveys
  3. Regular one-on-one check-ins

Leaders can gain valuable insights into the overall well-being of their teams. These feedback loops not only provide employees with a platform to express their needs but also demonstrate that their voices are valued within the organization.

Significance of Psychological Safety

Psychological safety goes hand in hand with open communication, as it establishes an environment where individuals feel secure in sharing their thoughts and emotions without the fear of negative consequences. When employees know that they won’t face retaliation or stigma for discussing mental health issues, it paves the way for early intervention and support.

This proactive approach can prevent potential escalation of mental health challenges and contribute to a more resilient workforce.

Benefits of Prioritizing Open Communication and Psychological Safety

By prioritizing open communication and psychological safety through feedback channels, organizations can:

  • Create a culture that normalizes discussions around mental health
  • Reduce stigma
  • Foster a sense of belonging for all employees

These efforts not only enhance individual well-being but also contribute to:

  1. Higher morale
  2. Increased productivity
  3. Stronger team dynamics

In summary, promoting open communication and psychological safety through effective feedback channels is pivotal in establishing an inclusive work culture that prioritizes mental health. It empowers employees to seek assistance when needed, facilitates early intervention, and ultimately contributes to a healthier and more engaged workforce.

Embracing Diversity and Inclusion as Core Values in the Workplace

Creating a positive and inclusive organizational culture is essential for promoting better mental health outcomes among employees. By fostering diversity and inclusion as core values, companies can cultivate an environment where employees feel valued, respected, and supported. Here are some key points to consider:

1. Highlighting the importance of fostering a diverse and inclusive workforce

A diverse workforce encompasses individuals from various backgrounds, cultures, perspectives, and experiences. Embracing diversity not only enhances creativity and innovation but also promotes a sense of belonging among employees. When individuals feel included and accepted for who they are, their overall well-being improves.

2. Supporting the well-being of all employees

By prioritizing diversity and inclusion, organizations demonstrate their commitment to supporting the well-being of all employees. When individuals feel valued and included, they are more likely to have positive mental health outcomes. They experience higher job satisfaction, increased motivation, and improved overall performance.

3. Creating psychological safety

Psychological safety is crucial for maintaining a healthy work environment where employees can freely express their thoughts, ideas, and concerns without fear of judgment or reprisal. In an inclusive culture, employees are encouraged to share their experiences related to mental health challenges or seek support when needed. This leads to increased trust, open communication, and stronger relationships within the organization.

4. Implementing diversity and inclusion strategies

Organizations can adopt various strategies to embrace diversity and inclusion as core values. Some examples include:

  • Establishing employee resource groups (ERGs) or affinity groups that provide a platform for employees to connect with others who share similar backgrounds or interests.
  • Implementing unconscious bias training programs for employees at all levels to raise awareness about biases that may exist in the workplace.
  • Reviewing hiring practices to ensure they are inclusive and unbiased.
  • Encouraging diverse perspectives by actively seeking input from employees and involving them in decision-making processes.
  • Providing resources and support for underrepresented groups, such as mentoring programs or leadership development initiatives.
  • Celebrating diversity through cultural awareness events, diversity fairs, or guest speakers who can share insights and experiences.

By embracing diversity and inclusion as core values, organizations can create a workplace culture that fosters mental well-being. When employees feel valued, respected, and included, they are more likely to thrive both personally and professionally. This not only benefits the individuals themselves but also contributes to the overall success of the organization.


It is undeniable that prioritizing mental health in the workplace is not just a matter of goodwill; it is a strategic imperative. As we’ve explored, mental health issues can significantly impact employee well-being, productivity, and safety. Therefore, it falls upon leaders to take proactive steps in creating a supportive environment that acknowledges and addresses these challenges.

By equipping managers with the necessary training to recognize and respond to mental health challenges, organizations can foster a culture of understanding and support. Prioritizing work-life balance and healthy sleep habits through flexible work options can further contribute to enhancing employee well-being and productivity.

Advocating for parity between mental and physical health coverage, implementing Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), and fostering open communication channels are vital steps towards ensuring accessible mental health care for all employees.

Lastly, embracing diversity and inclusion as core values in the workplace not only supports the well-being of all employees but also enriches the organizational culture.

It’s time for leaders to take decisive action in making mental health a top priority. By implementing the recommended strategies and creating a culture that values and supports mental well-being, organizations can pave the way for healthier, more productive, and safer workplaces.



Marissa Newby

Blogger focusing on Emergency Management, Safety, CBRNE matters and Conflict