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Mental Health in the Workplace


The theme for this year’s global day dedicated to better understanding and destigmatizing mental illness was on mental health in the workplace.

As an employer and partner to client companies in their hiring process – but first and foremost as a person – it is imperative to recognize the effects of mental illnesses. More and more, companies are catching onto this, not as a trend, but as a serious area of opportunity to reconcile in the workplace.

The Not-So Subtle Elephant in the Room

Categorically, mental health can seem like a distant and unrelatable illness, but the fact is that mental illness is on the rise – and it’s not so uncommon.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1-in-5 adults in the U.S. has a mental-health condition.

In the technology industry, that number looks more like 1-in-4.

And yet, most people suffering from a mental illness do not feel comfortable openly disclosing they have an illness to their employer. Ipsos conducted a survey a few years ago and found that 73 percent of workers with depression had not told their employer about their diagnosis. And almost half of the respondents surveyed said they thought that by telling their bosses, they would be jeopardizing their employment.

Combating Mental Illness

In Japan, the act of working to death has a name – karōshi – and it can be attributed to a combination of all-night, late-night, holiday work, and both long and excessive hours.

Whether it’s classified as personal time off or a sick day, my hope is that eventually we will see more paid-time-off policies that include provisions for mental health needs, like a rest day or a combination of health and paid-time-off benefits that include the option and opportunity to seek treatment.

Boston’s own HubSpot has flexible working hours and offers unlimited vacation so that employees do not feel like they have to explain where they are going or what they need their time off for in order to take care of their mental health.

During Glassdoor’s Recruit conference, Katie Burke, HubSpot’s Chief People Officer, commented on the amount of autonomy the company offers as being one of their biggest brand attractors when it comes to the company as a sought out place to work, but acknowledged that it is also one of their biggest flaws because not everyone enjoys or can operate in such a fluid workplace environment.

However the conversation and benefits packages take shape, it’s important for the dialogue to continue or, in some cases, to start.

There is not a one-size-fits-all approach that is going to work for every organization when it comes to mental health, but the employers that create solutions and provide care options in this space are going to seriously differentiate themselves, while also building a better brand and place to work.

Mental health drives creativity, productivity and a healthy, happy workplace.

At the center of all of this is the well-being of a company’s biggest asset – its people – and nothing is more important than individual mental health.