The Evolving Landscape of Mental Health in the Workplace

The American workplace, once seen solely as a hub for financial gain and professional growth, is now also a place where mental health and well-being should be top priorities. Recent data paints a vivid picture of the challenges and opportunities employers face in supporting the mental health of an evolving workforce during an ongoing labor shortage. It is clear that in 2023, supporting the mental health of employees is no longer an option, but a requirement for an organization’s success.

A Major Shift in the American Workforce

In 2016, Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) surpassed Generation X to become the largest cohort in the American workforce. Today, they make up 35% of the workforce, and are expected to account for 75% of it by 2030. As a socially-driven generation, Millennials have brought discussions about mental health to the workplace, which were previously taboo among Baby Boomers and Gen Xers. They are far more likely to use mental health benefits than their older coworkers, and far more likely to disclose information about their mental health to their superiors. 

They are also not afraid to job-hop for better pay and more supportive work environments. This means that employers must start paying attention to and supporting employee mental health if they want to attract and retain the generation that makes up the largest pool of American workers.

On the heels of Millennials comes Generation Z (born between 1997 and 2012), who are expected to account for 27% of the workforce by 2025. Generation Z also has high expectations when it comes to their workplace environment. The increased demands of the newer generations, paired with an ongoing labor shortage that means applicants have the privilege of being discerning about who they work for, mean that companies must work to adapt to the needs and desires of the evolving workforce if they wish to survive.

Unfortunately, change comes slowly, and many managers, owners, and stakeholders from older generations have not yet recognized the crucial need for mental health support and initiatives in the workplace.

A Growing Disconnect in Perceptions

In a time when distrust is on the rise among employees toward their employers, there is a concerning disconnect between the two regarding mental health support. LifeSpeak and Lighthouse Research & Advisory surveyed 1,000 employers and 1,000 workers in North America to understand their sentiments and priorities around mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. The survey found that employees were 49% less likely to say that their employer made significant positive changes to support mental health and wellbeing in the last 18 months. Workers also were 25% more likely to say that their company doesn’t have a true culture that prioritizes health and wellbeing, and 23% more likely to be uncomfortable talking about mental health at work.

These results raise concerns about a lack of consistent mental health support, as employees who feel unsupported are more likely to consider quitting their jobs.

Toxic Workplaces and Their Toll on Mental Health

A survey conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA) also highlights a troubling reality: 19% of workers describe their workplace as "toxic." Workers in such environments are three times more likely to report harm to their mental health. Harassment, discrimination, and negative behavior are also on the rise. Discrimination has been witnessed by 22% of employees, while 15% have experienced it directly. Such alarming statistics emphasize the need for improved workplace environments.

Despite challenges revealed by the APA survey, the data show there is improvement in the workplace regarding mental health support. The majority (77%) of workers reported being very (36%) or somewhat (41%) satisfied with the support for mental health and well-being they receive from their employers, and more than half (59%) strongly (22%) or somewhat (37%) agreed that their employer regularly provides information about available mental health resources.

This development is encouraging, particularly since most survey respondents (92%) indicated that it is very (57%) or somewhat (35%) important to them to work for an organization that values their emotional and psychological well-being, and 92% said it is very (52%) or somewhat (40%) important to them for their employer to provide support for employee mental health.

Mistakes Employers Must Address

An examination of recent studies identifies six common mistakes employers make concerning mental health:

These mistakes result in employees feeling discriminated against, concerned about disclosing their mental health issues, and subject to experiencing work-related mental health problems. Recognizing these issues is crucial for fostering and retaining a mentally well workforce.

The Path Forward

Understanding the current state of mental health in the American workplace is just the first step. Recognizing the importance of mental health in the workplace and continuing to build upon these positive trends will create a more supportive, empathetic, and ultimately successful work environment. Here are some key strategies employers can take to actively address these challenges:

The state of mental health in the American workplace is evolving, and the challenges are evident. Employers must take proactive steps to support their employees' mental health, promoting holistic well-being and fostering a culture of acceptance. Ultimately, investing in employee mental health is an investment in the success and longevity of any organization in today's competitive talent environment.

If you or your company are looking for assistance in developing a more supportive work environment and company culture around mental health, Medens Health can help! Contact us to learn about how we can support you.


The information provided in this blog is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Reliance on any information provided in this blog is solely at your own risk. Always seek the advice of your physician or a qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding your medical or mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who is qualified to give you safe, professional, and ethical advice regarding your mental health.

If you or someone you are responsible for is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should call 9-1-1 and/or take them to the nearest emergency room.