Research Report: Workplace Mental Health Stigma Must End Now

In our first blog about the research report 2021 Employer Mental Health Report Card: Ratings, Impact and Opportunity, we explored the disconnect over mental health in the workplace between employees and employers. We also discovered why mental health and wellbeing support is crucial to retaining staff, boosting productivity and enriching lives.

In Part 2, we dug deeper into what benefits would be most helpful in achieving these goals. In the third and final instalment of this blog series, we will examine an overlooked but crucial aspect of workplace mental health: stigma.

The research report indicates that creating an office culture of open and frank conversations around mental health is the best way to support employees.

For example, the report asked employees how employers could make mental health benefits more appealing and more accessible. This is a great example of one type of conversation you can have with your employees. Having support measures in place is a great first step, but they won’t be very effective if employees don’t feel comfortable accessing them—or can’t access them.

Based on the results of the study and what we have seen with LifeSpeak clients, benefits that embrace convenience and confidentiality/anonymity tend to have a higher chance of being used and yield greater engagement rates. The report found that women were 60% more likely than men to say they haven’t accessed the resources available to them yet, perhaps because they placed a high emphasis on confidentiality.

Engaging employees in discussions around mental health helps employers evaluate their mental health solutions, improves corporate and reduces workplace stigma.

How to make mental health benefits more appealing

Here are the top five ways employees said mental health benefits could be made more appealing. Benefits that follow these guidelines are not only more accessible, but they also reduce stigma around mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.

  1. Ability to access the service at a convenient time and place

More than 70% of employees surveyed said convenient access to resources was a top priority for them. Employees have increasingly busy schedules, and the ability to access a mental health service anytime and anywhere means employees can take care of themselves on their own schedules.

  1. Confidentiality/anonymity

Approximately 70% of employees—and women in particular—said confidentiality would make benefits more appealing.

Many workers would love to use existing mental health services but fear they will face negative consequences if managers discover why they are using the service. Confidential/anonymous services help employees get the help they need while reducing the fear of stigma.

  1. Ability to speak to a live person

More than 50% of employees surveyed selected this option. Getting questions answered in real time by a real expert can be the best option for employees moving beyond the first step of accessing resources on their own.

  1. Ability to pick the most relevant mental health topic

More than 40% of employees said this ability would make benefits more appealing. Employees don’t have the time to sift through mental health resources. Giving them the ability to easily find the information most relevant to them will make them more likely to engage with support measures and get the help they need.

  1. Ability to share resources with family

Like the previous option, more than 40% of employees said they valued the ability to share resources with their family members. Extending mental health resources to family members can help stabilize home lives and make employees feel valued. Both lead to improved workplace performance.

Final thoughts

The research report makes its abundantly clear that employees know what type of support they need to thrive at work and at home. A big part of that is a positive and accepting workplace culture.  As LifeSpeak CEO Michael Held recently said:

“Employees are more likely to share how they feel and seek assistance if they know they are being heard without fear of reprisal. Part of this is creating an environment that allows employees to feel safe being open about when they are not feeling OK.”

Employers that offer this type of support will not only boost productivity but improve retention and attract better prospects.

Learn more about stigma in the workplace and the best ways to support employee mental health by reading the full report here.