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The Increasing Importance of Mental Health in the Workplace

A new generation of workers is prioritizing mental health, and it wants employers to do the same. About one in five adults in the U.S. experienced a mental health issue in 2023.[1] There are many different types of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).[2]

The American Psychological Association’s 2023 Work in America Survey revealed that mental health and psychological well-being are a top priority for employees. Ninety-two percent of workers said it is important to them to work for an organization that values their emotional and psychological well-being.[3] Further, the same percentage of workers said it is important to them to work for an organization that proactively provides support for employee mental health. Employers benefit from providing the mental health support that employees need and expect. When employees feel supported by their employer, they are less likely to experience mental health symptoms, less likely to underperform and miss work, and more likely to feel comfortable talking about their mental health at work, benefiting overall workplace culture.[4]

How can employers reevaluate their approach to mental health, providing appropriate support to its workforce? The following is a non-exhaustive list of suggestions:

Offer mental health days.

More and more companies are offering “mental health days” to their employees. Defined simply, “mental health days” are workdays that employees can take off to prioritize self-care and rest. Fifteen percent of employees surveyed in 2023 reported that their employer offers company-wide mental health days.[5] Employees are increasingly searching for jobs that offer this type of support, and not offering these benefits could impact hiring and retention. In 2023, nearly thirty-eight percent of new employees quit within the first year of employment, with many citing work-life balance and other factors relating to mental health.[6]

Communicate with employees frequently and encourage them to take PTO days or mental health days if the company offers them. 

Companies just beginning to provide mental health days should be intentional about notifying employees of this additional benefit and assure them they won’t be penalized for taking days off to tend to their mental health.

Model behavior when it comes to mental health support.

Managers should set the example by using their own mental health days, and, just as importantly, refrain from sending emails to their employees while they’re not in the office. In fact, one study showed that employees spent an average of eight hours per week reading and responding to company-related emails after hours.[7] This translated to a poorer work-life balance, emotional exhaustion, and ultimately, poorer job performance.

Further, managers should avoid asking questions when an employee requests a mental health day, like “What’s wrong?” or “What’s the issue?” Remember, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides privacy protections for employees; employees may keep their condition private, except in very specific circumstances in which the ADA allows for an exception.[8]

Be aware of employment law implications.

Of course, providing mental health support poses employment law questions about how mental health days will be allowed and counted. For example, should employers compensate workers for mental health days? Are mental health days included with PTO, or is there a separate allotment? How many days should be given for mental health?

Considering these questions, policies and employee handbook provisions should be very clear and managers should be trained in the skills that allow supportive and non-judgmental communications with their employees. Remember, mental health conditions such as major depressive disorder, PTSD, and bipolar disorder – because they can substantially limit brain function – will almost always qualify as a disability under the ADA.[9] In addition, a number of substance use disorders, including alcohol use disorder and opioid use disorder, also are considered mental health conditions. Employees with a mental health condition may also be protected against discrimination and harassment, and, depending on the circumstances, may have a legal right to accommodations.[10]

Today’s workforce expects its employers to provide mental health support, and employers reap the rewards when they meet these expectations. Employers can start by offering “mental health days,” encourage employees to take advantage of this benefit, and refrain from sending work-related emails after hours. Finally, employers should be mindful of relevant employment law implications related to mental health support in the workplace.

[1] APA Poll Reveals Toxic Workplaces, Other Significant Workplace Mental Health Challenges, 2023,


[3] Work in America Survey Reports, 2023,

[4] It’s a New Era for Mental Health at Work, October 2021,

[5] APA Poll Reveals Toxic Workplaces, Other Significant Workplace Mental Health Challenges, 2023,

[6] Key HR Statistics and Trends in 2024, 2023,

[7] What After-Hours Emails Really Do To Your Employees, January 2024,

[8] The ADA: Your Responsibilities As An Employer,

[9]Mental Health Conditions: Resources for Job Seekers, Employees, and Employers,

[10] See EEOC v. Ranew’s Management Company (Civil Action No. 5:21-CV-00443-MTT) (2022).