The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that nearly 1 in 5 people live with some sort of mental illness, ranging from mild to severe.1 These conditions can have a significant effect on employee productivity and absenteeism. By providing education and resources to help employees manage mental illness, employers can help reduce or eliminate its effects on the individual and the workplace. Here are some tips to help companies reduce the stigma of mental illness, encourage treatment and provide a welcoming space for employees.


Best practices

Dealing with a mental illness is a difficult enough challenge for people who live with it. Maintaining a career at the same time adds additional pressures that can affect the individual as well as their coworkers, managers and others. Here are some steps employers can take to raise awareness and lessen the impact of mental illness in the workplace:

  • Include mental health awareness and educational materials in health fairs and during annual enrollment. Remind employees of the availability of these resources throughout the year.
  • Educate leaders and managers on early detection and how to reduce stigmas and discrimination.
  • Provide and promote employee assistance programs (EAPs) that offer confidential counseling and other benefits that support employees’ mental health.
  • Proactively research potential barriers and solutions to help employees return to work after a leave of absence.


Returning to work

Employees returning to work after a mental-health-related leave may require time and accommodations as they resume their daily responsibilities—just as they would after other types of medical leave. Following these steps can help them gain the confidence needed to be successful:

  • Stay engaged with employees throughout their leave of absence to ensure they are using all available benefits and feel reassured of their ability to do their job.
  • Allow flexible scheduling and/or work-from-home options to accommodate medical or counseling appointments.
  • If necessary, provide a graduated return to full-time status and allow time for employees to catch up on any outstanding items.
  • Check in regularly through one-on-one meetings.

For more information about supporting mental health in the workplace, read our Inside Track educational paper >


1 National Institute of Mental Health. 2019. Statistics. Accessed August 2019.