Workplace mental health communication strategies
The message, the messenger,
and the delivery
The first step to improving employee mental health is getting leaders to talk about it: “What leaders say and do makes up to a 70% difference,”
in whether employees feel supported.
Although 68% percent of employees believe that companies should support mental health, many are still largely uncomfortable talking about
their mental health at work, according to a Mind Share Partners’ survey. This is a big problem for businesses that want to retain top talent and
boost productivity. The CDC estimates that employers lose between $17 and $44 billion each year in missed workdays due to common mental
health issues like depression.
When building a workplace well-being program, communications can be just as critical as the resources offered. Consider the below
communication strategies to help increase well-being program awareness, consideration, and utilization.
1 The Message
Reduce stigma and encourage openness
Employees are often reluctant to talk about mental health concerns because of stigma, which can be societal, self-directed, or institutional.
It prevents many from seeking mental health treatment for a variety of reasons—they feel ashamed and fear the disapproval of others, or
maybe they’re concerned they may lose professional opportunities. Open, non-judgmental conversations can change perceptions about
mental health. HBR notes that education, social connection, and peer support are the best methods for decreasing stigma.
Make the message
When having discussions,
acknowledge that mental health can
represent a range of experiences,
from situational challenges to
Emphasizing one kind of experience
over another can alienate those who
have different backgrounds and
attitudes around their issues. Some
employees might recognize their
mental illness as a disability, while
others may be dealing with
temporary stresses. To ensure no
employee is left behind, reach out to
employee resource group leaders for
ideas and feedback.
Acknowledge the real world
Conversations should acknowledge
how events outside the workplace,
like Covid-19, are impacting
Amplify the message
A global tech company aimed to
normalize workplace mental
health discussions by launching a
new wellness program, including
Talkspace counseling & therapy
services as a resource. The
initiative’s central message, “It’s
okay not to be okay,” featured a
series of training sessions about
psychological safety and
resiliency. The ongoing wellness
campaign has inspired employees
to take action. More than half of
those who registered for
Talkspace through this employer
were first-time support seekers.
A poll conducted by the Kaiser
Family Foundation found that 45% of
U.S. adults felt the pandemic was
harming their mental health.
Businesses need to make space for
grief and uncertainty even as the
vaccine rollout continues. The
potential upside for mental health
and culture initiatives is high.
Deloitte found that businesses that
pursue organization-wide culture and
awareness initiatives around mental
health can see a 6:1 ROI.