By Craig Booker
September 12, 2023

How employers can embrace mental health

Prioritizing mental health in the workplace is a game-changer. Learn how employers can make a difference.

It is no surprise that the pandemic forever changed how many people now work, shop, and eat. Employers and employees both know that prioritizing mental well-being is now a necessity. The shared experiences of many worldwide provided tangible evidence on a massive scale that mental health impacts business. Organizations no longer question how brain health affects the bottom line, productivity, and office morale.

While the pandemic might have convinced decision-makers of the need to address mental health in the workplace, it does not make implementation easy. Placing mental health under the same umbrella as employee health requires a change in organizational values. This is not merely an expansion of benefits or a simple add-on to existing programs. Properly embracing brain health is rewriting how a company treats its people.

Turning the ship

Shifting the culture of any organization can seem like a monumental task. A change of this magnitude will require significant time and resources. This will only be accomplished with the full support of all parts of the organization. Having a well-thought-out roadmap is critical to successfully making this change.

Where does an organization start?

As a business owner or executive, this may be overwhelming. Running a business today requires much more than even five years ago. What worked then might not work now. Identifying the proper steps and developing a strategy can make all the difference.

Leading by example

It all starts at the top. Executives, directors, and managers will be asked to lead on a more relational level. Choosing to care about employee well-being requires a different type of leader. If leadership across the organization is not prioritizing their brain health, any programs it tries to implement will fall flat. This shift demands authentic change from all involved, especially leaders.

A big part of getting this right means bosses must learn to lead from their heart instead of the balance sheet. Compassion and empathy must be front and center in every leader’s mind.1 Encourage executives and management to seek opportunities to share their mental health experiences with their colleagues. Their willingness to model disclosure and vulnerability is essential in reducing stigma.2 By sharing their story, they signal to others that it’s okay to open up about what they are dealing with.

You can’t fake this

Before rolling out the Lunch n’ Learn schedule, offering free or reduced cost for mental health apps, or expanding mental health coverage, leaders must commit to placing personal well-being at the top of their list. The challenge for many is a lack of personal willingness or knowledge of where to begin. This change is unique, requiring growth on their part. No amount of charisma will get them out of this one.

First, leadership within the organization must make a personal investment to implement this in their own lives. The organization must train key staff members on prioritizing their mental well-being so they can, in turn, do the same for their team members. Embodying mental health as leaders must precede any efforts to apply this throughout the rest of the company. If leadership does not get this right, their lack of authenticity will undermine these initiatives. 

Managers and executives should be advocates for the well-being of their team members. Kerry Dryburgh, Chief People Officer at BP, says that BP has incorporated mental well-being into its leadership culture. One way they have done this is to include mental well-being questions in their employee engagement surveys. This is one small step their leaders are taking to better understand how their teams are feeling.1

Autonomy & flexibility are crucial

In a post-pandemic workplace, employees demand flexibility and autonomy as a way of life. The pandemic has shown us the brevity of life and the value of time with our loved ones. Employees realize they can trade one job for another, but they have one chance to get it right with their families. The freedom to choose or have some sense of autonomy, whether that is where they work or their schedule, is something people crave.  

Employers must understand that employees will have different preferences in different stages of their lives. Employers can meet employees where they are today by offering various flexible options. Workers currently value a sense of autonomy, which has also been shown to be good for business. According to APA, “An individual’s sense of autonomy has been shown, for example, to increase their motivation and performance, which can directly impact an organization’s bottom line.” 3

Why does this matter?

In the time following the pandemic, employee turnover has been running wild, costing businesses big. According to Workplace by Gallup, “The cost of replacing an individual employee can range from one-half to two times the employee’s annual salary.” 4 Understanding why people leave their jobs is perhaps the first step toward addressing the bigger problem. An article by Zippier states, “The top contributors to a high employee retention rate are a flexible work environment, adequate compensation, and recognition for achievements.” 5

As executives work toward improving their mental well-being and advocating for their team, employees will begin to see the workplace as a safe place. With time, leaders can build trust with their team, opening new doors for workplace mental health. Business owners must realize that small changes done consistently over time add up. Rewriting company values and culture won’t happen overnight, but given proper planning and laying out a roadmap, businesses can take positive steps toward a healthier workplace. 


[1] McCain, K., & Manktelow, A. (2021, January 25). 6 Global Employers On How to Improve Workplace Mental Health. World Economic Forum. Retrieved August 3, 2023, from

[2] Greenwood, K., Bapat, V., & Maughan, M. (2019, November 22). Research: People Want Their Employers to Talk About Mental Health. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved August 3, 2023, from 

[3] American Psychological Association (2022, April 21). 5 Ways to Improve Employee Mental Health. Retrieved August 3, 2023, from

[4] McFeely, S., & Wigert, B. (2019, March 13). This Fixable Problem Costs U.S. Businesses $1 Trillion. Retrieved August 3, 2023, from\~:text=The%20cost%20of%20replacing%20an,to%20%242.6%20million%20per%20year

[5] Ariella, S. (2023, February 7). 27 US Employee Turnover Statistics [2023]: Average Employee Turnover Rate, Industry Comparisons, And Trends. Retrieved August 3, 2023, from 


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About Craig Booker

Craig Booker is the founder of Overflow, a community for anxiety, depression, and other mental health challenges. He is a freelance writer and mental health advocate. Craig is an Edmond native with a bachelor's degree in Business Management from the University of Central Oklahoma. He is passionate about creating a safe space where people can be authentic, knowing they will find love, acceptance, and encouragement. Craig hosts a weekly podcast called, The Overflow Podcast," where he talks about mental health and personal growth. In each episode, Craig shares practical ways to positively impact mental health.