What Are Some Common Workplace Mental Health Issues?

What your employees might be experiencing in the workplace with their mental health, and how you can support them.
What Are Some Common Workplace Mental Health Issues?
Hannah Bennett

Your employees are people in and outside of work. Oftentimes we neglect this simple fact, assuming that our co-workers are like machines that don’t require much mental stimulation and awareness. This is why it’s essential to be mindful of and sensitive to the mental well-being of our employees.

The workplace can often create mental health issues or worsen existing conditions if left unnoticed.

Many employees struggle with substance abuse or mental illness and the pressure to perform that comes from their peers and upper management. Our employees may look fine from an outsider’s perspective, but they’re often dealing with much more under the surface.

Assessing the Problem

According to a report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention,

  • almost one in five adults has a mental illness in the U.S.
  • 71 percent of adults have at least one symptom of stress

Not only do U.S. adults often live with mental illness, but they’re also not getting treated for it.

The same report found that 57 percent of employees with moderate depression and only 40% of those with severe depression receive treatment to control their symptoms.

This issue affects not only employees but the company as a whole. When your employees are mentally well, you’ll see results like motivation, productivity, excitement in the workplace, and innovation.

But, when they’re not mentally well, these things take a major hit, leading to high staff turnover and interference with the success of a team.

The CDC found that for those who have depression, symptoms of depression hinder a person’s ability to complete job tasks about 20 percent of the time and reduce cognitive performance about 35 percent of the time.

Risk Factors for Mental Health

Several factors might lead to a few of the results discussed above. Risk factors can include personal factors, problems in the workplace, interpersonal issues, and a range of other elements that can influence a person’s mental health.

Here are a few risk factors for mental health in the workplace:

  • Stress. This is the number one factor in poor mental health in the workplace. Stress can be sourced from deadlines, pressure from management or other co-workers, job insecurity, long hours, and a heavy workload.
  • Burnout. Most workers experience burnout at least once in their lifetime as an employee. Job burnout can look like lacking energy and motivation, irritability, frustration, and a lack of satisfaction with job goals and accomplishments.
  • Lack of clarity or leadership. If a person’s role and responsibilities are unclear, or communication is lacking between employees and management, this creates a tense environment to work in.
  • Lack of support for employees. All of the above issues and more come down to a lack of support for employees. Support for employees means offering outlets to discuss new ideas, frustrations, and opinions; openly discussing issues of mental health; or managers leading by example.

Common Workplace Mental Health Issues

Whether it be at a desk, on the field, or working from home, we spend the majority of the week at work. Because such a large portion of our time is spent working with others, we need to be aware of the common workplace mental health issues as employers so we can better support and stand up for our employees.


Depression can stem from problems at home, stress, feeling incompetent or unimportant, and many other components. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 17.3 million adults in the U.S. have a major depressive disorder (that’s 7.1% of people 18 years and older).

7.1% of people 18 years+ in the US have a major depressive disorder — National Institute of Mental Health

Be aware of signs that your employees are depressed, such as:

  • Persistently sad moods
  • Low motivation or fatigue
  • Unusual absences and drop in productivity
  • Discussion or jokes of suicidal thoughts or intentions
  • Skipping lunch regularly, not eating
  • Drug or alcohol abuse


Another major mental health issue commonly found in the workplace is anxiety. Stress is a major factor in multiple issues in the workplace that can lead to anxiety.

Anxiety often seen at work includes:

  • Social anxiety. Social anxiety may present itself in the workplace as avoiding happy hours, difficulty confronting co-workers, or other interpersonal struggles
  • General anxiety. An employee may have general anxiety if they often worry about their future at the company, constantly stress over deadlines or tasks, or worry over perceived tension and disaster when there’s no problem present.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Many people joke about having OCD when they insist on placing their pens ever so perfectly on their desk; however, this is a real disorder that runs deeper than perfect pen placement. An employee of yours might be showing signs of OCD if they have persistent, unwanted thoughts or obsessions, reread or review a project several times before submitting, or struggle to complete daily tasks.

Substance Use Disorder

Many times, when employees are under a significant amount of stress, feel hopeless or worthless at their job, or experience any other negative work-related issue, substances are an easy out. Commonly abused substances include alcohol, marijuana, and painkillers.

Substance abuse is more than having one too many drinks at the end of a workday. This is a mental disorder that involves rewiring of the brain and shifts in chemical balances that make substances an integral piece of maintaining normalcy.

9.5 percent of working adults had a substance use disorder — Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Drug or alcohol abuse can lead to poor decision-making, missing work or deadlines, increased conflict among employees, and other results.

What Can Be Done?

While the issue of mental health in the workplace can result in negative impacts on employee and team well-being, it doesn’t have to end there. As employers, there are many ways to build up our employees to better support them in times of need or stress.

To promote better mental health at work, employers can:

  • Set up outlets for employees, such as EAP programmes and therapy;
  • Lead by example, showing that it’s safe to discuss mental health at work;
  • Encourage mental and physical breaks;
  • Involve employees in decision-making, inviting them to be a part of a larger vision;
  • Learn how to reward each employee in a way that’s meaningful to them.

The best way to combat issues of mental health in the workplace is to open up communication. By talking with employees and management about mental health, lines of communication can be opened to make the way for a safer, healthier work environment.

About the author

Hannah Bennett is a content specialist for AddictionResource.net, a content guide that informs and equips those struggling with substance abuse and their loved ones on mental health, addiction, and treatment.

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