Mental Health and Workplace Productivity

The need for a targeted campaign against workplace mental illness is becoming increasingly apparent in today’s work climate.

How Mental Health Is Affecting Your Workplace

A recent survey of 34,622 employees looked at the relative cost of different health conditions as measured by the sum of medical costs and lost productivity. Researchers found that depression ranked as the single most costly condition, while anxiety placed as fifth (National Alliance on Mental Illness of Massachusetts, 2015). Clearly, mental health has a dramatic influence on business productivity and healthcare expenses.

The primary business losses stemming from mental health struggles include absenteeism and presenteeism—a term referring to the lost productivity that occurs when employees are not fully functioning due to illness or injury. Currently absenteeism accounts for approximately 7% of global payroll across all organizations while, though more difficult to quantify, rates of presenteeism are estimated to be 3-10 times higher than absenteeism and may account for 81% of lost productivity time (National Alliance on Mental Illness of Massachusetts, 2015). 

Poor Mental Health Hurts Businesses and, Most Importantly, Employees.

Some of the main factors leading to mental health-related absenteeism and presenteeism include:

  1. Fatigue – Fatigued workers have significantly higher rates of health-related absenteeism than their non-fatigued counterparts. In fact, it’s been estimated that fatigued workers cost companies nearly 4x more in health-related lost productive time (Ricci, Chee, & Berger, 2007). Learn more about workplace burnout and how you can help your employees avoid it.
  2. Depression – Depression often causes side effects such as lethargy and a struggle to self-motivate, leading to substantially higher workplace absences. In fact, close to 50% of total workplace “lost productive time” is due to depression alone (Stewart, Ricci, & Chee, 2003). For severe forms of depression, predicted absenteeism will cost an estimated $12,000 per employee per year (National Alliance on Mental Illness of Massachusetts, 2015).
  3. Negative workplace culture – Organizations with hostile environments caused by harassment, biased reward structures, or poor leadership are more likely to report losses due to absenteeism and presenteeism, as well as significantly higher turnover rates.
  4. Physiological health issues – Unsurprisingly, physical health conditions are one of the leading causes of decreased workplace productivity with obesity, diabetes, and smoking-related illnesses leading the list. A 2013 Gallup survey found that a mere 5.4% decrease in US smokers would lead to $17 billion in reduced absenteeism and healthcare costs annually (Starling). Similarly, 5.6% less obese workers would lead to approximately $4 billion saved annually.
  5. Low morale –  With low company morale, employees struggle to bring their best performances to work, and may even call in sick more often. Moreover, morale and absenteeism are closely related. Just as low morale can lead to increased absenteeism, habitual absence from work can lead to low workplace morale as other employees are forced to pick up the slack created, leaving little time to focus on their own jobs.

Every dollar spent on mental health in the workplace more than doubles in returns.

Thankfully, the outlook for treating mental disorders is bright. Employees who receive treatment have been shown to provide better customer service while experiencing more favorable co-worker interactions, higher productivity, and less healthcare-related expenses.

According to a 2014 report, every dollar invested in creating a mentally healthy workplace yields $2.30 generated in benefits to the company (The Mentally Healthy Workplace alliance, beyondblue, PwC, 2014).

In a separate report, employees who received two years of high-quality depression care management achieved a 28% improvement in absenteeism and a 91% improvement in presenteeism (Meinert, 2014). The same study concluded that the cost of depression treatment was fully offset due to savings from reduced absenteeism alone.

New Tools for Mental Health in the Workplace

Key factors for improving workplace mental health and productivity include:

  1. Early interventions with evidence-based treatments
  2. Workplace support
  3. Regular assessment of employee workload
  4. Providing regular breaks to reduce stress and improve productivity
  5. Providing education on healthy diets and exercise programs
  6. Maintaining a positive company culture

Today’s employees recognize the importance of mental health resources and want them available in their workplaces. Mindboost is a solution that meets your employees where they are, offering confidential daily check-ins and positive habit building exercises proven to work. Learn more about how Mindboost could help you improve your company culture and your employees’ lives!

Works Cited

Meinert, D. (2014). Early detection of employees’ mental illness can save health care costs and generate loyalty. HR Magazinee, 30.

National Alliance on Mental Illness of Massachusetts. (2015). Bad for Business: The Business Case for Overcoming Mental Illness Stigma in the Workplace. Retrieved from NAMI :

Ricci, J., Chee, E., & Berger, J. (2007). Fatigue in the US workforce: prevalance and implications for lost productive work time. Journal of Occupational and Environmental medicine, 49(1), 1-10.

Starling. (n.d.). The Economic Impact of Mental Illness: Absenteeism & Presenteeism. Retrieved 2021, from Starling Minds:

Stewart, W. F., Ricci, J. A., & Chee, E. (2003). Cost of Lost Productive Work Time Among US Workers With Depression. JAMA, 289(23), 3135-3144.

The Mentally Healthy Workplace alliance, beyondblue, PwC. (2014, March). Creating a mentally healthy workplace: Return on Investment Analysis. Retrieved from Heads Up:—pwc-roi-analysis.pdf?sfvrsn=6