The Role of HR in Employee Mental Health | ThoughtFull World™

THW-004_The Role of HR in Employee Mental Health

Being busy is part of our modern world. At work, employees often juggle multiple responsibilities, as they face growing demands on their time and attention. In this never-ending treadmill of busyness, it’s easy for individuals to neglect their mental health. 

Here’s where HR can step in to help promote employee mental wellness within organisations. In this article, we explore the various roles and responsibilities of HR professionals in employee mental health, along with action steps and strategic changes they can make to foster a positive work environment. 

What Does a Mentally Healthy Workplace Look Like?

Before diving into the role that HR plays in promoting employee mental wellness, let’s first understand more about employee mental health. 

Employee mental health refers to the psychological, social and emotional wellbeing of individuals in a shared work environment. It is helpful to think about mental health on a spectrum—and where employees lie on the spectrum at a given point in time can be affected by numerous factors, including workplace stressors.

These stressors are reduced when employees work at mentally healthy organisations. Such companies offer a positive work environment, and often demonstrate the following: 

  • A culture of wellbeing
  • Open dialogue on employee mental health topics
  • Providing mental health training for employees across all levels
  • Implementing practices that promote flexible working
  • Physical environments are designed to support employee wellness
  • A commitment to diversity and inclusion


Understanding the Role of HR in Employee Mental Health

HR plays a multifaceted role in promoting employee mental health at the workplace. You’re responsible for:

1. Strategic Planning and Development

Fostering mental wellbeing in the workplace goes beyond a single, isolated initiative or programme. Instead, organisations need to implement comprehensive strategies that address multiple aspects of employee wellness. 

This requires careful planning, and HR plays an integral role during the strategic planning and development stage. You need to work with key stakeholders—including the leadership team, managers, mental health professionals and wellness experts—to conceptualise strategies that are tailored to the specific needs of your workforce. 

2. Identifying Organisational Goals and Objectives for Employee Mental Health Initiatives

During this stage, HR collaborates closely with the leadership team and other relevant stakeholders to define clear, measurable goals and objectives. 

You need to ensure that all mental health initiatives or programmes implemented at your workplace are aligned with the long-term organisational goals—such as boosting productivity, reducing employee turnover or minimising healthcare costs. 

3. Gathering Data and Insights to Assess the Mental Health Needs of Employees

Measuring employee wellbeing can be difficult, particularly at large organisations where employers or HR professionals aren’t able to communicate with individual employees directly. 

To keep your fingers on the pulse of employee wellness, you need to look into gathering and monitoring data—such as employee demographics, their health concerns and lifestyle preferences—on a regular basis.

There are various ways to accomplish this. Running focus groups or 1-on-1 interviews can provide qualitative insights, and help you better understand the general state of mental wellbeing among employees. 

Anonymous surveys are also a useful tool, as these can encourage employees to openly share their concerns. With proper structuring, surveys can help you gain insights into important factors—such as daily stressors employees face, how they cope with mental health issues, and how they feel about existing wellness initiatives at your organisation.

4. Implementing Employee Mental Health Initiatives 

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HR takes on several roles during the implementation stage. These include:

  • Administration: Most of the day-to-day tasks of implementing employee mental health initiatives fall under this category. Examples include preparing documents, organising and maintaining records, monitoring the progress of the wellness initiatives, and more. 
  • Scheduling: Scheduling tasks that you’ll undertake include developing timelines, setting milestones, and ensuring that all tasks and activities are integrated into the work schedules of employees. 
  • Budgeting: Examples of budgeting tasks include working with the management to develop an effective budget, as well as overseeing the budget allocation for employee mental health initiatives implemented at your organisation. 
  • Collaborating with external mental health experts: HR plays a key role in identifying and selecting external partners, and ensuring that their offerings are aligned with the broader goals of your organisation. You’ll work closely with your partners to tailor their offerings to meet the specific needs of your employees, monitor their performance, and resolve any issues that arise during your collaboration. 

5. Communication and Awareness

There are two objectives that HR needs to fulfil during this stage: you’re aiming to promote the importance of mental health at the workplace, as well as generate awareness of employee mental health initiatives implemented at your organisation. 

Crafting clear and concise messages that underline the mental health benefits of participating in these initiatives is key. You’ll also need to ensure that you’re utilising the right communication channels, and catering your messages to reach different employee demographic groups. 

To keep employees engaged, consider leveraging testimonials from past participants who have benefitted from participating in mental health initiatives. Sharing regular updates or reminders can also help employees remain motivated. 


How Can HR Professionals Help With Employee Mental Health?

1. Implement Comprehensive Wellness Programmes

A comprehensive wellness programme addresses multiple dimensions of employee health and wellness. These include: 

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  • Physical wellness: There are numerous benefits to engaging in regular physical activities: it decreases stress tendencies, reduces the risk of chronic diseases, and elevates our moods and energy levels. Steps that HR can take towards supporting employees and their physical wellbeing include promoting active transportation at work, offering incentives for physical activity, or investing in ergonomic office furniture.
  • Emotional wellness: When employees are emotionally healthy, they are better able to navigate challenging situations, communicate effectively, and establish positive relationships with coworkers. HR professionals can help improve the emotional health of employees by offering access to mental health platforms, and fostering a culture of trust at work.
  • Social wellness: In a socially healthy work environment, there is a sense of teamwork and community, and employees feel valued and connected. These can be achieved through implementing team-building activities and social events, as well as  encouraging open communication at your organisation. 
  • Spiritual wellness: Spiritual wellness at the workplace isn’t associated with religious practices. Rather, it refers to helping employees discover inner peace and a sense of purpose. In an organisational setting, this can be nurtured through conducting mindfulness sessions, or offering flexible schedules that enable employees to take time off for personal pursuits. 

2. Implement a Wellbeing Strategy Day for the Organisation

In an article for People Management, writer and wellness expert Oliver Henry offers a suggestion for HR professionals: consider running a wellbeing strategy day at your workplace. 

This event provides an opportunity for HR to engage directly with employees, learn about the stressors that are impacting their mental health, and identify areas where they require more support. 

During the event, you may also take the time to communicate about your organisation’s wellness objectives, along with employee mental health policies or initiatives that you plan to implement across the year. 

3. Provide Training and Educational Sessions

By equipping individuals with the necessary knowledge and skills, HR can help nurture a welcoming workplace environment that supports mental health concerns. 

Opting for mental health platforms that offer personalised support to employees at all levels is key, as different employee groups have unique learning needs. 

While workshops that equip individuals with skills on managing stress or coping with mental health issues will benefit employees across the organisations, training sessions for managers should focus on other aspects. These may include knowledge on how to identify signs of poor mental health or distress, have supportive conversations at the workplace, or guide employees towards relevant resources.  

4. Offer Access to Mental Health Resources

HR plays a central role in ensuring that employees have access to resources that support their mental wellbeing.

And here’s where ThoughtFull comes into the picture. We work with HR professionals to deliver a holistic end-to-end mental health solution for organisations. Our offerings range from unlimited 1-on-1 coaching with a certified professional, to curated wellness resources and wellbeing trackers and assessment. Employees can access support whenever they need it, thanks to the easy accessibility of our platform. 

HR also plays a critical part in increasing employee access to mental health resources. To do that, you need to serve as a point of contact for individuals seeking information on mental health support. 

This can be achieved through consolidating mental health resources onto a website, providing personalised guidance to help employees make informed decisions, raising awareness of workplace mental health issues and creating more opportunities for wellbeing conversations at work.

5. Ensure Inclusivity in the Workplace 

Fostering an inclusive work environment is key to promoting mental wellbeing at work. When there is a lack of inclusivity, a toxic culture—where individuals display non-inclusive behaviours like microaggressions—can emerge. These behaviours may leave employees feeling undervalued, and adversely impact their mental health. 

To promote inclusivity at work, HR professionals can start with developing and implementing inclusive policies. These may range from flexible work arrangements and fair hiring and compensation practices, to policies on anti-discrimination and harassment. 

Educating the workforce about diversity and inclusion is important too. These trainings can help raise awareness about mental health challenges faced by individuals from diverse backgrounds, and enable employees to become more aware of their own biases.


Strategies for HR to Boost Employee Mental Health and Wellbeing

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Consider Redesigning Work in Ways That Can Improve Employee Wellbeing

The way in which work is designed or organised can have a significant impact on employee wellness. 

Studies have shown that having low control in the work environment is associated with higher rates of heart disease. By implementing strategic changes to workplace conditions, HR can bring about improved outcomes such as reduced burnout and higher levels of employee wellbeing. 

It can be daunting to think about redesigning the way employees work, but keep in mind that even making small changes can leave an impact.

Consider the following approaches:

  • Create more opportunities for employee involvement 

This can extend into various aspects of an employee’s role. Consider giving employees more control over their career advancement, by letting them have a say in their learning and development opportunities within the company. 

Or rethink how annual reviews are conducted at your organisation. Instead of traditional performance evaluations, think about how you can incorporate employee feedback to turn the process into a two-way conversation. 

  • Build a sense of belonging among employees

Creating an environment where employees can nurture positive relationships is an important factor for supporting their mental health. Various studies point towards this, showing that workplace social support can help reduce psychological distress, prevent burnout syndrome and improve employee mental health.

Seeking input from employees across the organisation can help build a sense of belonging.

Conducting regular off-site activities, such as volunteering or team retreats are important too, as these events enable employees across diverse backgrounds and roles to come together.



We’ve elaborated on the multifaceted role that HR plays in promoting employee mental health, and highlighted action steps and strategies you can implement. 


To recap, here’s a quick sum up of what we’ve discussed: 

  • HR professionals undertake various roles in supporting employee mental health and wellness. These include: strategic planning and development, research, setting out goals and objectives for employee mental health initiatives, implementation and communication. 
  • Action steps that HR can take to improve employee mental health include: implementing comprehensive wellness programmes, running a wellbeing strategy day, providing mental health training, offering access to mental health resources and promoting inclusion and diversity.
  • Redesigning the way in which employees work can benefit their mental health. HR may implement strategic changes to foster a greater sense of belonging at the workplace, and give employees more control over their work.


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