How Do Mental Health Problems Impact the Workplace?

While the COVID-19 pandemic seems to be over, when it comes to mental health, its consequences are still quite intense. So, what are these effects? What changes do workers want today? We're going to explore this subject in more depth.
How Do Mental Health Problems Impact the Workplace?
Gorka Jiménez Pajares

Written and verified by the psychologist Gorka Jiménez Pajares.

Last update: 30 March, 2023

Our workplaces are one of the most important areas in our lives. In fact, as a rule, we dedicate an average of eight hours a day to our working lives. Therefore, we’ll effectively work for a third of our lives.

Employees can develop psychological health problems as a result of a multitude of events. For example, traumatic events, relationship breakups, financial difficulties, and others. Logically, these situations are far from watertight. In other words, they permeate, are transmitted, and have the potential to intoxicate important areas of life, such as work, but also interpersonal, academic, or family situations.

A group of researchers wanted to delve deeper into this fact. As a result of their studies, they published a report, “People at Work 2022: A Global Workforce View”.

You could be forgiven for thinking that, now the COVID-19 pandemic is over, normal work functioning has been restored. However, in reality, it seems that this is more of an expectation than a reality.

As a matter of fact, both workers and employers are today, bearing the emotional consequences of the pandemic. In addition, the incessant changes in the current economic landscape are worsening their mental health which, even before, was suffering.

“Stress is at critical levels, with 67 percent of workers experiencing symptoms at least once a week.”

-Nela Richardson-

Work overload causes work stress
Studies reveal that, since the pandemic, employees feel overworked.

The main mental health problems in the workplace

Mental health problems in the workplace range from anxiety disorders and depression to post-traumatic stress disorders and addictions. According to a systematic review of the literature, published in the Occupational Medicine journal, the most common mental disorders in the workplace are anxiety and depression (Garety et al., 2017).

Anxiety disorders might manifest in symptoms like palpitations, sweating, and obsessive thoughts. On the other hand, depression causes feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of energy.

According to a study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, these problems have a significant impact on the productivity and emotional well-being of employees (Ferguson, 2015).

Addictions also qualify as a workplace mental health condition. In fact, according to a systematic review published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, it’s possible that substance abuse affects productivity, safety, and the mental health of employees (Frone, 2016).

Stress: the curse of the workplace

While a large proportion of employees are pretty optimistic when it comes to their psychological well-being, others find themselves in the midst of an extraordinary fight for their mental health. In fact, research claims that one in three employees report that their mental health has greatly deteriorated since 2020 (Richardson, 2022).

Experts are currently studying the way in which the psychological problems of workers impact the workplace. They’ve discovered that, as a direct consequence of the pandemic, employees are reporting increased stress. Yearly performance reports repeatedly reflect this fact. Indeed, productivity levels are down. This is a product of deteriorated mental health.

For example, almost 40 percent of workers state that the pandemic caused them to be overloaded at work, especially when given tasks with greater responsibilities. Moreover, today, in Europe, seven out of ten employees frequently experience stress at work. In the US, the figure is eight out of ten. About 70 percent of employees feel supported by their supervisors.

Today, the segment of the population that reports the most stress are individuals between 18 and 25 years of age (around 60 percent of the workforce). This figure decreases as workers get older. It appears that there are many consequences of work stress. These range from disorders such as generalized anxiety to depression, somatoform disorders, and even musculoskeletal disorders (back pain, neck pain, and/or lower back pain).

“However, unless the causes of stress are identified and addressed, the impact of this well-intentioned support could be undermined.”

-Nela Richardson-

Employees want to feel safe and supported in the workplace
Employees seek a work sphere that protects their health and promotes professional well-being.

Giving voice to workers’ demands

Nowadays, the usual factors related to employees’ feelings of satisfaction (such as salary or break times) are changing.

In fact, today, a broader range of elements that promote job satisfaction, as well as job security, are taken into account. This involves achieving a balance between work and personal life. It also concerns giving meaning (and fulfillment) to the values with which a company is born and developed (Richardson, 2022).

Indeed, transformations are taking place in the nature of work. This fact must be taken into account by employers. Employees no longer rely on transactional relationships (specific rewards for specific jobs). In effect, they want to go further. They want to feel safe and secure in the workplace, as well as more personally satisfied.

The new meaning of safety at work

The pandemic rewrote the terms of job security. In turn, this caused changes in employee beliefs about professional relationships. Today, it’s more common to see individuals looking for companies that blend in with their personal values. Before, this situation was reversed.

As you can see, as a result of the impact of mental health problems in the workplace (a consequence of the pandemic), people are now seeking ‘safe’ jobs. They define them as ‘positions in which, in addition to protecting their health, their well-being, they create situations to enjoy time with the family’.

Today’s employees also believe that the values of large organizations must be consistent with those of the workers. Indeed, for them, it’s important to enjoy the tasks that the company sets for them.

“Employers need to ask the right questions so they can better understand workers, including how the prevailing mindset has changed, and consider adjusting their approach accordingly.”

-Nela Richardson-

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Gil Peñaranda, A. J. (2023). Estrés laboral: Impacto sobre la salud mental de los trabajadores durante la pandemia por Covid-19.
  • People at Work 2022: A Global Workforce View. (2022, 29 abril). ADP Research Institute.
  • Consejo General de la Psicología en España. (s. f.-b). Un informe pone de relieve el impacto negativo de los problemas de salud mental en el rendimiento laboral.
  • Ferguson, E. (2015). The effects of depression and anxiety on productivity: An evaluation using the Work Productivity and Activity Impairment questionnaire. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 20(2), 204-210.
  • Frone, M. R. (2016). Prevalence and distribution of illicit drug use in the workforce and in the workplace: Findings and implications from a U.S. national survey. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 165, 177-190.
  • Garety, P. A., Freeman, D., Jolley, S., Dunn, G., Bebbington, P. E., Fowler, D. G., & Kuipers, E. (2017). Reasoning, emotions, and delusional conviction in psychosis. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 126(1), 87-95.
  • Vogt, D., Smith, B., & King, L. (2019). Chronic diseases and primary care: A coordinated care approach to improve health and wellness. Traumatology, 25(2), 85-90.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.