Investing in mental health of employees equals company growth, how does that work?

31 Aug ‘22
5 min
Work performance
Editorial Board OpenUp

If we told you there’s a way you can invest in your company that would yield average returns of 500 percent, you’d be all ears, right? Well, that’s exactly what we’re telling you. Research by Deloitte shows that investments in mental health programs in the workplace generate returns of five times their original value (sometimes more). Not to mention the fact that they also produce healthy and happy employees.


But why is investing in employee mental health such a good idea? And what can you as an organization do to invest in the mental health of your employees?


1. Employees with good mental health are absent less


27 percent of all sick days in the Netherlands are related to psychological challenges, such as burnout and emotional exhaustion. Along with the fact that mental health issues are obviously unpleasant for the employee, they also cost employers a lot of money.


What does an absent employee cost per day?


An absent employee costs between €250 and €400 per day. You can break that down as follows:

€150: Continued payment of wage, depending on the salary

€150: Cost of replacement, depending on the salary

€40: Estimated productivity loss

€60: Cost of return-to-work procedures


Calculate your actual absenteeism costs.



 2. Employees with good mental health are more creative and innovative


Research by BetterUp in the United States shows that employees who don’t feel good about themselves find it more difficult to be creative and innovative. The reverse is also true: Happy employees are much more creative and innovative.


This is because creative thinking, challenging existing ideas, and experimenting require more brain power than following the status quo. If your mind is full of worries, then you don’t have the head space for this. It blocks your creative process.


3. Increased mental health = lower presenteeism


It isn’t just absent employees that cost money. There are also costs associated with employees who are present, but don’t get a lot done because they aren’t feeling great. This phenomenon is known as presenteeism. Employees might be stressed out, exhausted or unmotivated but they’re still physically present at work because they (feel like they) have to be.


Don’t underestimate this phenomenon. According to Deloitte, the costs of presenteeism are four times as high as absenteeism. Ultimately, presenteeism often leads to absenteeism because exhaustion and stress continue to bubble away under the surface until the employee eventually can’t keep going anymore.


 4. If people feel good, they stay


The chances of employees resigning is significantly lower when employees feel good at work. Resignation costs are a double whammy. Not only do you lose an employee’s knowledge and skills when they leave, but hiring and onboarding new employees is expensive. Prevention is always the best option!


How can you invest in mental health (and growth)?


Methods of investing in the mental health of your employees can be divided into the following categories: Reactive (you help an employee after they’ve developed mental health symptoms), proactive (you help an employee to avoid developing mental health symptoms), and organization-wide cultural change (you create a healthy business culture and increase awareness around mental health).


The average return on investment here is €3, €5, and €6, respectively, per invested euro. But obviously we’re talking about people and their health here – that has a value much greater than any monetary figure. This is why it’s so great to see that investing in people and their health is also an investment in your business.


In general, the largest (financial) gains are achieved through the following kinds of programs:

  1. Programs that bring about large-scale cultural change within the organization and programs that affect large numbers of employees across the organization
  2. Programs focused on prevention and improving employee resiliency
  3. Programs that use technology and diagnostics to tailor support for those that need it the most


The ultimate goal of your program is to find a balance between “job demands” (what the organization requires of an employee) and “job resources” (the means your employee is given to satisfy these demands), as set out in the job demands-resources model. Because, if there’s a balance here, there’s less of chance that employees will end up calling in sick as a result of mental health challenges.


A few tips:


1. Offer employees access to on-demand self-help programs


This means that employees can work on improving their own mental health whenever they choose. OpenUp offers programs like this, for example about getting a good night’s sleep, stress management, self-confidence, and handling conflict. But you can also look to companies like Headspace, Calm and Lepaya here. It should be left up to employees to decide what they want to use. This will increase their sense of autonomy.


2. Provide employees with access to one-on-one consultations with a psychologist


Preventative consultations with a psychologist often keep employees from calling in sick due to mental health struggles. They help people to challenge their current habits and working practices and develop new, more efficient methods. This has proven to be an effective investment.


3. Use a diagnostic or screening tool to identify needs


In order to better tailor your approach to suit the needs of people within your organization, you first need to identify what these needs are. Want to know how to do that? Then read this article.


4. Invest in raising awareness


Raising awareness about mental wellbeing falls under the category of “organization-wide cultural change” and generates a high return on investment. Are you a HR manager? Be an ambassador for mental wellbeing in the workplace.


5. Hire a health and wellbeing coach


Physical health promotes mental health, so why not bring in a health and wellbeing coach to talk to your employees about healthy eating, sleep and exercise? Indirectly, this could also help your employees to work on their mental health. Physical health is obviously more tangible and less of a sensitive topic. This means that working on it can be a good steppingstone towards working on your mental health.


6. Help employees manage their finances


Money issues sometimes cause stress. Support your employees in getting (and keeping) their finances in order. You could maybe offer them training sessions with a financial coach.


7. Create a stress-free physical environment


Plenty of daylight, greenery, lots of space to work quietly, good air quality, an ambient temperature, and not too much noise – these all help to reduce stress. Don’t underestimate the impact of a pleasant work environment on employee mental health. It’s huge!


8. Train managers


Managers are the spiders at the center of the web when it comes to employee mental health. Train them to recognize the early signs of mental health issues and how to approach employees who are struggling.  This is crucial in terms of creating a safe environment where employees feel empowered to work on their mental health.


 9. Hire an in-house psychologist


According to McKinsey, increasing numbers of employers are offering on-site psychological support. This cuts down on travel time and medical expenses.

Want to know more about how to maintain talent within your organization? Read ‘7 Ways to Prevent Losing Your Top Talent’.