Global Recommendations for the Mental Health and Wellness of Workers


For the first time, the World Health Organization (WHO) and International Labour Organization (ILO) recommended manager training to emphasize mental health and wellness in the workplace. The intention would be to teach managers and Human Resources leaders how to recognize stressful work environments, create positive space, and respond to workers in distress. 

GUIDE: What Is Mental Health and Wellness in HR? 

This urgent suggestion comes on the heels of disturbing trends. COVID-19 caused a 25% increase in general anxiety and depression and “revealed a chronic global shortage of mental health resources,” according to WHO. Any manager who is wondering if any of this is his problem needs to look no further than the data. An estimated 12 billion workdays are lost to depression and anxiety, which costs nearly $1 trillion. 

At the same time, the reports from the WHO also include that only 35% of countries say they have national programs for work-related mental health and promotion and prevention. This is miniscule compared to the 1 billion people living with a mental disorder in 2019. When governments are not acting, businesses can fill the void.  

Once managers can wrap their head around why this is vital to their business and the people they employ, they can take action: 

Focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)

One of the points made by WHO/ILO is that wider societal challenges can amplify mental health issues. Discrimination and inequity certainly can negatively impact one’s wellness. Therefore, organizations that are building diverse teams and focusing on helping employees gain a sense of belonging are actually doing the work required of mental health and wellness programs, too. 

GUIDE: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for HR Leaders

Remove Microaggressions and Workplace Bullying

Obviously, those with diagnosed mental illnesses need more help than a positive work culture. However, having a zero-tolerance policy for aggression, violence, or even microaggressions in the workplace is a baseline for helping alleviate stress to lay a foundation for a non-toxic place to work. 

Often, HR sees red flags, other employees come forward about a bully in the office, or both. There should be no hesitation about nipping such problems in the bud immediately. Making it clear that no one in a particular organization will tolerate bullies or toxic people is a necessary part of setting the tone for a positive work culture. 

WHO and ILO refer to “mobbing,” a psychological violence that is characteristic of workplace harassment. Recognizing the signs of these kinds of problems that plague companies is a big part of the role HR plays in the modern workplace. It’s not one that gets talked about much, but it is necessary for ensuring psychological safety of employees. 

READ: DEI: How to Address Microaggressions in the Workplace

Support for the Mentally Ill 

These guidelines offer suggestions on interventions for those with diagnosed mental illness. The idea is for employers to create support systems, remove the bias and stigma attached to those struggling with mental illness, and create programs and processes that allow people to get help and ease back into work.

READ: How Responsible Is HR for Employee Wellbeing?  

While employers will need to put meat on the bones of this framework, they can refer to it as a starting point for addressing mental health and wellness. Besides being the right thing to do, it can help employees be better team members, remain productive, and contribute to the positivity of the workplace. All these factors influence the bottom line and an organization’s success. 

Read What Is Mental Health and Wellness in HR? to gain a better sense of what HR leaders can do to make wellbeing a priority and help the workforce thrive in these uncertain and anxiety-inducing times. 


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