Mental Health at Work: We're in this Together

4 min. read

CEO's, HR leaders, and staff are all reporting feelings of dread. Their concerns are different—the solution is the same.

Headspace, a provider of comprehensive mental health platforms, recently published its Fifth Annual Workforce Attitudes Toward Mental Health Report. The report, showing employee and leadership responses from US and EU workplaces, includes some pretty challenging findings about what people dread at work. "Dread" means fearing something a lot and thinking it is going to happen. It is a major driver of anxiety and stress at work.

We can see that the top source of dread differs across groups within the workplace:

  • 59% of CEOs reported feeling a sense of dread at least once a week. They're most worried that the global economy will have major problems and hurt the health of their business.
  • 49% of employees report feeling a sense a dread at least once a week. They're most worried that they'll lose their jobs, be given unpredictable work, and be overwhelmed.
  • 37% of HR leaders reported feeling a sense of dread at least once a week. They are most worried they will suffer burnout from providing emotional support to stressed employees. They report being torn between making performance and budget goals and keeping employees happy and healthy.

Each of these groups dreads different things, but they all depend on each other.

  • CEOs dread damage to their business in a global economic crisis, but they depend on employees to show resilience, innovation, and hard work to beat those headwinds.
  • Employees dread being overwhelmed, left out of the loop, and losing their jobs. They count on their leaders to choose their assigned work wisely, communicate the plan, and work hard to preserve their jobs.
  • HR leaders dread burning out as they are caught between keeping employees emotionally and mentally healthy, and keeping executives satisfied about the bottom line.

The solution starts with recognizing this interdependence, and it advances when each group proactively strengthens their connection with the others. It really takes effect when all three groups take action at once. Here's how each can pitch in:

CEOs and executives have the central role, because they can lead and inspire the others to participate. Acknowledging the central fears and mental health challenges in the workplace, they can call for a push to better unify the company. To do this, they'll hold company meetings, town halls within groups, and one-on-ones with team leaders. They can deploy anonymous surveys and other feedback methods, then respond and act to reduce employee fears of unpredictability. They can clearly communicate what they see as the most likely economic challenges to their company, and point out the exact goals the company needs to pursue to beat them. They should be able to say confidently, "if we can meet the goals I set out here, we won't have to lay anyone off or restructure the company." They should also be able to say "we need to know what you need to feel ready to get it done."

Employees can pitch in by enthusiastically participating in these initiatives. They'll speak up about what they need, what limits their productivity, and what damages their mental health. They can form employee support groups, mentor newer employees, and bring forward new ideas to help the company. They'll know that advocating for themselves and each other will help protect their futures and preserve the job they love. They'll feel empowered to prevent being overwhelmed or blindsided.

HR leaders can leverage these new perspectives to transform the tension between employee needs and business goals. Instead of being torn between them, HR now takes a role of connecting employees to leadership. They'll facilitate employee requests, carry the input and advocate for employees, while making the business case to leadership that this is what's needed to hit the (now clearly defined) business objectives. They can foster this as a matter of culture with training, social events, onboarding practices, and frequent communication. They'll have a new sense of mission in unifying the leadership objectives with supporting employees.

Workplaces often talk about themselves as one company, or one team. Bringing down the barriers and embracing the shared destiny of all groups opens completely new ways to secure the future and remove fear.

Amazing Workplace's Employee Happiness Survey can reveal employee sources of stress, and can pinpoint needs among leaders, departments, and demographics. You can get started with us here or email us at We're excited to help!