Research Report: Employers score a failing grade on mental health support in new US study

The pandemic has shone a spotlight on long hidden and neglected issues surrounding mental health in the workplace. According to Google Trends, mental health as a search term has doubled in priority from a year ago. Everybody knows we need to do better, and many organizations are trying.

To assess the current state of mental health support in the workplace, LifeSpeak commissioned a study of US organizations from Lighthouse Research and Advisory. Lighthouse asked employers and employees to rate mental health support provided at work.  Lighthouse also asked what benefits would be most helpful for employees. The report, titled 2021 Employer Mental Health Report Card: Ratings, Impact and Opportunity yielded surprising results.

Employers scored a failing grade from employees on workplace mental health support. On a ten point scale, business leaders rated their efforts a 7.6, equivalent to a “C” on a typical school grading system.

Workers, however, scored their employers a 4.4. That’s an F—a failing grade.

To make matters worse, 1 in 2 women say they wouldn’t feel comfortable discussing mental health in the workplace—a clear barrier to success at managing mental health issues. Women were also 2.5 times more likely than men to say their organization had not made positive changes to support mental wellbeing in the last 18 months.

Here’s what some of the employees who took part in the survey had to say:

  • “There is no focus on how workload or unreasonable deadlines affect mental health.”
  • “ [Mental health is] having a poster in the break room with wellness numbers attached.”
  • “They give us the tools at orientation we need but then were kind of left to our own devices when it comes to mental health.”

However, there is some good news too: most employers say they offer tools and mental health resources to their people. To a slightly lesser extent, they say they have developed a true culture of support and acceptance around mental health in the workplace. Only 14% of companies say they don’t prioritize mental health—which is a great sign.

Still, employers need to do more to keep employees healthy and productive, and to retain staff. The Lighthouse Report found 1 in 2 employees have thought about leaving their job due to mental health issues. It also found 3 in 4 workers say having personalized, confidential mental health benefits would make them more likely to stay in their job.

“For almost everyone, the pandemic put an acute focus on… how has this company I’ve given a lot to handle me or my health or happiness during this time?” Ross Seychell, chief people officer at Personio, told the BBC recently. “I’m hearing it a lot: ‘I’m going to go somewhere I’m valued.”

The Lighthouse Report supports this idea. Employers simply can’t afford to ignore topics of mental health and wellbeing if they want to remain competitive in the talent marketplace.

See a full analysis of the data from Lighthouse Research & Advisory by downloading the “2021 Employee Mental Health Report Card” here.