Expert Advice of the Month: Dealing with mental health in the workplace while maintaining your profits

Sonya Ruff Jarvis is an entrepreneur and founder of Jarvis Consultants LLC, a marketing, events, and branding firm. Sonya has been a part of the B2B retail industry, working across all types of retail formats and categories, for more than 30 years and is the founder of the Home Improvement eRetailer Summit. You can contact her at

The acceleration of mental health issues has forced society to take notice. Now, more than ever, well-being is tied to mental fitness. Prior to the pandemic, very few admitted their mental health issues. Since, many struggling with this disease have spoken out to elevate the conversation. Finally, mental health is starting to be addressed in the workplace.

It’s obvious that the pandemic pushed this topic into the spotlight. Most employees are comfortable discussing physical ailments like allergies, diabetes, cancer diagnoses, and COVID-19 positive results. Yet, many feel judged when sharing a mental illness diagnosis.

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review states that at least 68 percent of millennials (up from 50 percent in 2019) and 81 percent of Gen Zers (up from 75 percent) have left roles for mental health reasons. Mental health challenges permeate organizations affecting C-level roles too.

Regardless of size, many companies can show flexibility and empathy towards employees struggling with mental illness symptoms—without sacrificing profits. Company profits can be maintained by acting on this shift in the workplace. Those profits diminish with low productivity, poor quality of work, job dissatisfaction, and low loyalty, which can all result in critical negative profit measurements such as high absenteeism and turnover.

What can companies do to help employees succeed in managing mental wellness without giving up profits? Ultimately, employees need to feel recognized, supported, and accepted. A mental health diagnosis should not be a stigma. It should be treated like any other illness.

Incorporating a mental health care program into your company’s value system with benefits spelled out would be a start. Yet, it is more than just providing mental health funding. It is an emotional investment too. Employees need to be encouraged, at every level, to talk about the subject to help remove the shame.

Here are some suggestions to help normalize mental health issues and show employees flexibility and empathy:

  • Create a mental health care program that supports the needs of the individual and helps them feel financially secure.
  • Encourage employees to talk about mental health and create a safe space. Consider developing peer groups.
  • Make regular check-ins on mental health status just like with job performance reviews.
  • Train from the top down.
  • Establish supervisor support at every level.
  • For burnout, stress, or long hours, try introducing mindfulness groups or yoga sessions on-site that can help to offer relief.
  • Paid time off should include mental health days.

It remains to be seen whether the pandemic has helped to normalize mental health struggles in the workplace. Companies showing flexibility and empathy towards their employees’ mental health will be the brands that will maintain—and gain—profits by creating a culture of support and acceptance.