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November 7, 2023

Anxiety & Depression in the Workplace – What Employers Can Do to Help

While anxiety disorders are fairly common – they affect approximately 2 in 10 adults every year – they can have a real impact on someone’s ability to carry out their day-to-day responsibilities. And as volatile social and economic issues contribute to a 25% increase in depression and anxiety rates over the last year, employers are going to have to find ways to support employees suffering from these disorders.

Thankfully, Massachusetts is one of the top states in the country when it comes to behavioral health. Named by Forbes Advisor as the second best state in the country for mental health care, Massachusetts is starting to put the pieces in place to support its citizens struggling with these issues. However, it shouldn’t stop there. Employers are uniquely positioned to improve access to benefits and resources that help people access the help they need.

The impacts of anxiety or depression are undoubtedly being felt by someone within your workforce, and they could even be dealing with diagnosed anxiety disorders or depression. Here, we’ll explore the connection between these behavioral health issues, and how employers can support employees who may be struggling.

Understanding anxiety disorders and depression

Feeling down or anxious now and then can be common. For people with anxiety disorders and depression, these feelings are ongoing and can be more severe. Anxiety disorders involve intense, excessive or continuous worry about everyday situations to the point where it can be difficult to control and may interfere with work, relationships and everyday functioning.

Similarly, depression can cause severe symptoms that affect how a person feels, thinks and handles daily activities, such as sleeping, eating or working. A person struggling with depression may have persistent feelings of hopelessness, irritability, frustration, restlessness, guilt, a loss of interest in hobbies and activities, low energy or fatigue.

Workplace impacts on mental health

The workplace plays a significant role in a person’s overall health and well-being and can either contribute to or detract from anxiety disorders and depression. Factors like long hours, excessive workloads, job insecurity, inflexibility and a work environment that lacks a supportive culture can increase stress levels and worsen overall mental health.

Alternatively, when employees have meaningful roles that enable confidence, purpose and achievement, they feel included and valued. Positive working relationships and supportive benefits and resources can all positively impact their mental health.

Ways to support employees struggling with their mental health 

Mental health issues are complex, with a multitude of contributing factors. Having a comprehensive benefits offering and making sure employees know what resources are available to them can be extremely helpful to a person along their mental health journey.

Employers can help support colleague well-being in the workplace by:

  • Offering a strong mental health benefits package – A work and well-being survey by the American Psychological Association found that 81% of people say they’ll be looking for workplaces that support mental health when seeking future job opportunities. Flexible options, such as in-person therapy, teletherapy and digital solutions, give employees more inclusive ways to receive the help they may need.
  • Building well-being into company culture – Remind employees of the different wellness programs, like yoga, mindfulness and well-being webinars, included in their benefits package—as well as if there are any fitness reimbursements available to them. And encourage behaviors and a workplace culture that empowers them to prioritize their mental health every day.

By raising awareness and understanding for mental health issues like anxiety and depressive disorders and creating an organization that works to be part of the solution, employers can foster a happier, healthier workforce.

Harvard Pilgrim Health Care is committed to whole health support, including behavioral health. For more information about our resources available to members, please visit the Harvard Pilgrim website.