How Mental Health Affects Productivity in The Workplace


Wrote this on, October 27, 2020

From an economic standpoint, the cost of mental ill-health at work stems from workers’ reduced productivity. Absence rates are 5% higher amongst workers who have poor mental health, but what about the impact on mental health and productivity in the workplace?

A large portion of work-related risks is linked between the type or work, the organisational or managerial structure, the skills and competencies of employees and the available support for employees to be able to carry out their tasks. 

For example, if an employee possesses the adequate skills and attributes to actively do their job but they lack the relevant resources or are surrounded by unsupportive management, their mental health may depreciate.

Whilst the relationship between poor mental health and productivity is strongly linked to the nature of the job itself. After closer examination, absenteeism and presenteeism are greatly associated with mental health problems extending to, but are not limited to, job control; job security; job stress and job complexity. 

mental health and productivity in the workplace

However, when mental ill-health is at play, employees are forced to choose between being absent from or present at work. The strongest correlation lies between anxiety, depression and overall mental health and levels of presenteeism (performing under suboptimal conditions).

What Are The Workplace Risk-Factors For Mental Ill-Health?

We briefly touched on some of the workplace risk factors for our mental wellbeing. Working communities that have one or more of the following are breeding grounds for high levels of mental ill-health and lower levels of productivity:

  • Inadequate health and safety policies
  • Poor communication
  • Low levels of support and job control
  • Inflexible working hours and unclear objectives

Some jobs do pose greater personal risk than others (e.g. mental health workers, paramedics) which can lead to mental health disorders, or alcohol or recreational drug abuse. 

In addition, the social support we need and desire at work is important to our overall well being, without the correct support from management we can develop both physical and psychological problems. Both of which contribute to our productivity in work, as well as increased absence and staff turnover. 

Issues outside of work, if an employee falls ill or is going through a personal crisis our wellbeing whilst in work can be disturbed. This often means employees are faced with the decision to either go to work and face lack of productivity and motivation or remain at home. 

mental health and productivity in the workplace

Understanding what influences an employees’ decision to attend work or not while sick might be the gateway in identifying the working environments that are susceptible to higher rates of absence and lower rates of productivity.

How Does Mental Health and Productivity In The Workplace Affect My Business?

Higher Staff Turnover

Negative working environments remove employees’ flexibility and freedom, whether social or professional. Leading your workforce under unsustainable work ethic or elitism harbours resentment that incentivises employees to resign. 

Higher Rates of Absenteeism

Measures of workplace productivity include absenteeism (time away from work without good reason) and presenteeism. Presenteeism is a relatively new measure, however with more of us attending work with mental ill-health, the issue is continuing to grow. 

Work is good for our mental health, however negative working environments can quickly lead to both physical and mental health problems. Absenteeism is a consequence of mental health issues, whether external or internal. This not only creates a problem for management but for other employees who are then left with additional workloads. 

mental health and productivity in the workplace

Increased Physical Ill-Health

When we feel under a certain amount of stress, our physical health begins to deteriorate. Often we find ourselves out of routine and instead favour unhealthy habits that include smoking and alcohol.

What Strategies Can I Implement To Improve Mental Health and Productivity?

There are a number of effective strategies to implement when it comes to improving the mental health and productivity of your employees. Here we highlight some simple ways you can do this with little to no budget. 

Create a Positive Working Culture

Businesses that promote a positive working environment see lower levels of absenteeism and staff turnover and increased productivity. Positive mental health at work doesn’t exist solely on a yoga mat. However, while physical health benefits at work do help, smaller strategies create bigger wins.

Think about your communication strategy, are your employees being communicated to regularly about information and the mission surrounding the business? Consider the ways in which management interacts with employees, and are both actively contributing to the working environment? It is really important this is not one-sided. 

Creating a positive workplace culture also involves the policies and processes you have in place. Identify and promote any health and safety practices that employees can benefit from. By highlighting the support available for employees who need it gives employees a better understanding of what to do when faced with mental ill-health. 

You could also consider the physical working environment. During the winter months, we are more prone to suffer from mental health issues such as SAD which can be improved by extra lightning and working in a warm space.

Create Awareness About Mental Health Issues

Raising awareness of the most common mental health problems experienced in the workplace is the first step in ensuring employees are better cared for. You could involve your employees in decision making about how you raise awareness giving them a sense of involvement and control over what is important to them. By developing an open working environment, employees will feel more comfortable opening up about personal issues that are affecting their work.

Integrate Career Development 

Implementation and enforcement of career development is often ranked high on surveys regarding employees’ mental health. It is important to invest in the people you hire. Skills are important, however, a chance for growth fosters a healthy working environment. Furthermore, ensure managers are recognising and rewarding the contribution of their employees.

Create an Empathetic Working Environment 

As humans we can be quick to accuse someone when they do not meet our needs or requirements, but often we do not know or understand what is going on behind the scenes. By adopting a sympathetic ear and approach creates an inspiring environment for the individual to do better and strive better.

We all experience performance issues at some stage in our careers, and personal issues will affect work performance. However empathy focuses on being concerned for the human, rather than their output for the business. 


Remember, many employees are often afraid to speak up when they are struggling with mental health issues. It is easier to recognise someone suffering with a physical ailment, however the principles adopted can be applied to that of an invisible illness too. We understand treating mental health is a complex issue however a healthy workforce is a stronger one. 

We are on a mission to normalise the conversations around mental health at work. Our tailored content is available at your employees’ fingertips, while our insightful information to you as an employer helps to enhance your wellbeing strategies in a bid to end the stigma surrounding mental health.

We are currently offering three months free trial to all new clients, with no obligation to sign up. Get in touch today for more information.

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