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HR's Perception of Mental Health at Work

HR's Perception of Mental Health at Work

Story Highlights

  • 16% of CHROs rate their employees’ mental health as excellent or very good
  • Half of Total Rewards leaders say their job is bad for their mental health
  • Mental health varies greatly across HR communities

A CHRO recently mused if mental health was really a workplace issue. Are organizations really responsible for the mental health crisis? Should they feel responsible for changing it? Can they even control it? Employees' mental health has become an increasingly crucial concern for organizations. Gallup recently conducted a comprehensive survey of chief HR officers (CHROs), HR professionals and a representative sample of the U.S. workforce to gauge jobs’ effect on mental health. By examining various perspectives, the study sheds light on the challenges employees face and highlights the need for proactive measures to support mental health.


CHRO Perspectives

When asked about the reasons behind employee departures, 44% of CHROs identified work-life balance and flexibility as a common factor, ranking third after higher compensation (77%) and career development (76%). These findings indicate that to retain talent, organizations need to focus on creating environments that allow for a healthy work-life balance. Encouragingly, 93% of CHROs stated that their company provides easily accessible mental health support services for employees.

Perceptions of Workforce Mental Health

When CHROs were asked to rate the mental health of their organization's workforce, the results painted a mixed picture. Only 1% described it as excellent, while 15% considered it very good. The majority (57%) rated it as good, while 25% found it fair, and a mere 2% perceived it as poor. Most CHROs see the mental health of their organization as good or fair: nothing special, nothing to brag about -- despite the resources they are providing.

HR Professionals and U.S. Workforce Insights

The survey also sought insights from HR professionals and the broader U.S. workforce on their job’s effect on mental health. Among HR professionals, 35% reported a somewhat negative impact on their mental health, while 38% found their job’s effect on mental health somewhat positive. These findings underscore that those responsible for employee wellbeing also face challenges in their own role.

Surprisingly, when the same question was posed to a representative sample of the U.S. workforce, 33% reported that their job had a somewhat negative impact on their mental health, while 23% found it to be somewhat positive. Furthermore, 30% of respondents stated that their job had no impact on their mental health. These results highlight that individual experiences of mental health in the workplace may vary significantly.


The survey findings revealed distinct differences among nine different HR communities regarding the impact their role has on their mental health.

Chief of Staff to the CHRO: A majority of chief of staff professionals, 65%, reported that their role has a positive impact on their mental health, while 25% acknowledged a negative impact, indicating that these roles can provide a rewarding and fulfilling experience. A highlight is the strength of their relationship with the CHRO -- 79% rated that partnership as effective.

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) Leaders: A majority of DE&I leaders (60%) reported that their job has a positive impact on their mental health, and 36% acknowledged a negative impact. These leaders believe in the moral case for the work they do, but there is still a lot of work ahead of them, as 0% can strongly agree employees have the same opportunities for advancement or that their organization is fair to everyone. But there is hope -- 59% of CHROs said their budget for DE&I is increasing in the next 12 months versus only 4% who said it will be decreasing.

Culture/People Experience Leaders: Among culture/people experience leaders, 51% stated that their role has a positive impact on their mental health, while 35% acknowledged a negative impact. These roles have the potential to contribute to a positive workplace culture and employee experience. Encouragingly, 60% of culture/people experience leaders are confident their organization will establish the type of culture needed to achieve the leadership team's business objectives over the next three to five years.

Learning and Development (L&D): Among L&D professionals, 50% reported that their role has a somewhat or extremely positive impact on their mental health, while 37% experienced a somewhat or extremely negative impact. L&D roles have the potential to foster a positive work environment, but challenges may still arise, especially for the 23% of L&D leaders who indicated that their annual budget is being reduced.

Talent Management Leaders: Among talent management leaders, 46% expressed a positive impact on their mental health, while 32% reported a negative impact. Talent management leaders are typically senior-level personnel on the HR team, but only 3% rate their people dashboards for leaders as excellent, and only 6% rate their succession-planning process as excellent. These can be exciting opportunities to solve, but solving them can be challenging without the right resource -- and only 8% of talent management leaders say HR has the resources necessary to deliver excellence.

Talent Acquisition Leaders: The results for talent acquisition leaders were evenly split, with 42% indicating a positive impact and 42% reporting a negative impact on their mental health. Unfortunately, just 19% of talent acquisition leaders believe their technology strategy for talent acquisition gives them a competitive advantage in the talent markets they care most about. And only 16% say their recruiters have the capabilities necessary to help them compete in the talent markets they care most about.

Total Rewards Leaders: Total rewards leaders had a more balanced perspective: 38% experienced a positive impact on their mental health from their job, and 50% reported a negative impact. Ironically, the HR leader who is often responsible for wellbeing and mental health has the second-highest negative mental health score of the nine communities. In addition, only 9% of total rewards leaders say their company is ready for the future of benefits programs, and 17% say their current benefits program is excellent.

People Analytics Leaders: The results for people analytics leaders are more grim with 34% reporting a positive impact and 47% indicating a negative impact on their mental health. These findings suggest that the demanding nature of analyzing HR data can take a toll on mental health. This is partly because the task ahead of them is daunting when 17% say the quality of their organization’s people data is excellent and only 4% say the quality of the insights from their people data is excellent.

HR Business Partners (HRBPs): Only 26% of HRBPs reported that their role has a positive impact on their mental health, and 54% indicated a negative impact -- the highest negative percentage of the nine HR communities. In follow-up conversations, HRBPs expressed feeling overwhelmed by their responsibilities -- 55% emphasized the need to simplify their role to focus on what truly matters.


Tailoring Support for Different HR Communities

The diverse experiences among HR communities underscore the importance of adopting a nuanced approach to supporting mental health. A one-size-fits-all program may not effectively address the unique challenges each community faces.

Managers must be skilled in exploring strategies to transform different types of jobs into positive contributors to mental health. It could involve simplifying HRBPs' roles to alleviate their workload or empowering total rewards leaders to navigate difficult decisions without feeling like adversaries. By addressing the specific needs and challenges of each HR community, organizations can foster a healthier and more supportive work environment.


The survey results demonstrate the varying perspectives of CHROs, HR professionals and the wider workforce on their job’s impact on their mental health. While CHROs cited concerns about work-life balance and flexibility, the perceptions of HR professionals who report to those CHROs were more positive overall. Nevertheless, organizations should strive to create supportive environments that prioritize mental health, as at the individual job level, those averages have big differences and require high individualization.

By addressing concerns related to work-life balance, providing accessible mental health support services, and fostering a positive outlook on mental health, organizations can enhance employee retention, satisfaction and overall organizational performance. It is crucial for organizations to continuously evaluate and adapt their strategies to promote a mentally healthy workplace, supporting employees in achieving their fullest potential.

Hang on to your best people with a focus on engagement and wellbeing.


Jeremie Brecheisen is a Partner and Managing Director of the CHRO Roundtable at Gallup.

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