Stress in the workplace can negatively impact job satisfaction and productivity, leading to low morale and employee turnover. In a 2018 Korn Ferry survey of nearly 2,000 professionals, 76% said that stress at work has had a negative impact on their personal relationships and 66% said they have lost sleep due to work stress.1 Common causes of stress at work include: fear of being laid off, more overtime due to staff cutbacks, pressure to work at optimum levels all the time and lack of control over how work is done.2 So what can employers do to support employees and create a culture that fosters mental and physical health?

The Building Blocks of an Emotionally Healthy and Safe Workplace

According to the American Psychological Association, while every organization is unique and faces different challenges, there are five practices that make up the foundation of a healthy workplace: employee involvement, work-life balance, employee growth and development, health and safety, and employee recognition.3

Employee involvement and engagement requires honest and regular communication between top management and all employees. A Gallup poll of more than one million American employees showed that the top reason people leave their jobs is because of their bosses, not because they dislike their position.4 Methods to empower and motivate employees include ensuring they have the tools they need to do their jobs, allowing flexibility, encouraging collaboration and teamwork, and showing appreciation.

Work-life balance is also vital. Programs and policies, such as employee assistance programs (EAPs), offer resources to help employees with all aspects of life, from childcare to financial concerns. Opportunities for employee growth and development include educational offerings, tuition assistance, mentoring, and leadership development. Investing in employee development helps employees develop their skills, increases staff motivation, and attracts top talent.

Health and safety initiatives encourage mental and physical well-being. Examples are wellness programs that promote a healthy lifestyle, such as smoking cessation, stress management, weight loss, and more. Again, EAPs offer a wealth of resources for all employees on how to achieve and maintain physical and emotional health.

Finally, expressing appreciation and recognizing employee contributions go a long way to promote job satisfaction. Recognition does not necessarily have to be monetary. Studies have shown that while compensation and benefits are important to workers, feeling valued and respected is even more critical.


It may take time to tailor these approaches to fit with company culture, build trust, and meet the needs of employees. But the benefits of an emotionally healthy and safe workplace are many: higher morale, improved performance, reduced absenteeism and turnover, and a positive reputation that attracts and retains employees. Employees who are motivated and engaged are also better able to handle organizational change and other stressors.5


1 (2018, November 18). Retrieved from

2 Segal, J., Smith, M., Robinson, L., & Segal, R. (n.d.) Retrieved January 6, 2020 from

3 Retrieved January 6, 2020 from

4 Retrieved January 6, 2020 from

5 Retrieved January 6, 2020 from