To mark World Mental Health Day 2022, the World Health Organization has urged making “mental health and well-being for all a global priority.”1 With the growing disease burden related to brain-health conditions, moving this aspiration into reality requires bold action and deep commitment from a broad range of stakeholders—with employers playing a critical role.
In our McKinsey Health Institute (MHI) publication, “Addressing employee burnout: Are you solving the right problem?,” we highlighted what affects employee mental health and well-being. Now we examine who is most affected—and how leaders are in a position to improve employee mental health and well-being at scale by rethinking the workplace via a lens of a modern understanding of health. Research indicates that positive outcomes—such as job satisfaction and work engagement—are correlated with feeling included and supported, and with freedom from stigma or overwhelming workloads.
The insights discussed below are based on a global survey MHI conducted across 15 countries and nearly 15,000 employees. To learn more, see the sidebar, “Survey scope and methodology.”
Employers have the opportunity to move the needle on burnout, to explore ways to help workers struggling with mental-health and well-being challenges, and to explore ways to create the healthiest environments for employees.
Most survey respondents have experienced mental-health and well-being challenges
No demographic appears immune to mental-health challenges
Failing to address the effects of mental-health and well-being challenges is a missed opportunity for employers
Across all 15 countries surveyed, respondents say toxic workplace behavior has the largest effect on their intent to leave and burnout symptoms
Moving to better mental health and well-being for employees everywhere
As we have discussed in previous articles, employers have the opportunity to move the needle on burnout, to explore ways to help workers struggling with mental-health and well-being challenges, and to explore ways to create the healthiest environments for employees. As employers open the aperture to look beyond the reactive management of poor mental health to the proactive mitigation of its drivers, they can reinforce what is—and is not—acceptable. For example, companies may benefit from reinforcing behaviors that leverage the power of kindness—which recent research has highlighted as a powerful path toward greater empathy and compassion for others, along with greater well-being for the individual practicing kindness.2
We also recommend employers revisit the following questions:
- Do we treat employee mental health and well-being as a strategic priority?
- Do we effectively address toxic behaviors?
- Do we create inclusive work environments?
- Do we promote sustainable work?
- Are we holding leaders accountable?
- Are we effectively tackling stigma?
- Do our resources meet employee needs?
A long-term comprehensive approach is likely correlated to organizations gaining the full potential benefits from improved employee health. If individuals, businesses, and countries widen their understanding of health, they may be able reap the benefits of gains in life expectancy and quality of life.
If you’re experiencing a mental-health crisis, please contact a crisis help line in your country (988 in the United States). For more information about World Mental Health Day, please refer to these resources from the World Health Organization. If you are a leader who is concerned about mental-health challenges in your organization, please refer to these resources from the World Health Organization. There are many actions that employers can take, including examples from: MindForward Alliance, One Mind at Work, Mental Health America, and Shatterproof.