The changing landscape of workplaces has drawn heightened attention to the needs and expectations of employees nationwide regarding the issues of work–life balance and mental health support. The recent survey by the American Psychological Association (APA) sheds light on the prevalence of toxic workplaces and their detrimental impact on mental health. Of the data coming out of this survey, most startling was the revelation that 19% of workers reported their workplace as somewhat or very toxic. Even more alarming, those in such environments are three times more likely to suffer mental health harm at work than those individuals who are in nontoxic settings. This blog discusses the importance of these findings, what employers can do in light of this data, and the role mental health providers can play in supporting individuals facing toxic work situations. Understanding the impact of a toxic work environment The APA survey brought to light the destructive toll a workplace can have on an individual’s mental well-being. According to the survey, more than one in five workers revealed they've suffered mental health harm at work. Even worse, reported cases of harassment have jumped from 14% in 2022 to 22% in 2023. More than two-thirds of employees report experiencing workplace stress in the last month, with 57% reporting negative impacts that are associated with burnout. Other notable findings from the survey include: Discrimination is a serious problem, with 22% of respondents saying they witnessed discrimination in their current workplace and 15% saying they have experienced it themselves. Employees are still concerned about the impact of disclosing a mental health condition to their employer, with 43% responding that they worry about the impact it might have on them in the workplace. And 55% of employees believe that their employer thinks their workplace is mentally healthier than it actually is. Different job types face different kinds of challenges. Employees working in customer or client-facing roles may deal with verbal abuse whereas 10% of manual laborers reported being subjected to physical violence. No matter the field, it is clear that employers need customized strategies to combat toxicity in various work environments. Proactive steps for employers To foster a supportive and mentally healthy work environment, employers can take several proactive measures to combat toxicity and promote mental health: Promote psychological wellbeing. Organizations must prioritize mental wellbeing as part of company culture and offer benefits that support that. Keep your team informed about available mental health resources and openly promote a healthy lifestyle. Among employees who reported being unsatisfied with the mental health support provided by their employer, 57% intend to look for a new job within the next year. Encourage time off. It's crucial to create a culture that supports breaks and time off. By giving employees a chance to recharge, you can prevent them from burnout and keep the team thriving. Only 40% of respondents report that their time off is respected . Foster a positive work culture. Create a positive environment that embraces respect, empathy, diversity, and open communication. Nurture a culture where everyone feels valued and appreciated. Provide objective and subjective resources—both tangible benefits and cultural support. Avoid micromanaging. More than 40% of workers report feeling micromanaged during their workday. Of those who feel micromanaged, they report increased levels of workplace stress. Combat discrimination and harassment. Prioritize strict antidiscrimination and antiharassment policies. Training for all staff increases awareness and sensitivity. Make it clear there is zero tolerance for discrimination and set up confidential channels for reporting incidents so anyone who is experiencing this can report it. Offer work–life harmony. Promote work–life balance by offering flexibility where possible and giving employees a sense of autonomy over their work. Respondents who said they were satisfied with their level of control over how, when, and where they do their work were much more likely to report that their overall mental health level is good or excellent (79%) compared with those who reported being unsatisfied with their level of control (44%). Establish connection and community. Fostering a sense of belonging among employees is crucial. Employers can organize team-building activities, create employee resource groups, and host social events to strengthen bonds and create a supportive network within the workplace. Provide opportunities for growth. Offering career development programs, training, and mentorship opportunities is vital. Employees who see growth prospects within the organization are more likely to stay engaged and satisfied, reducing turnover and promoting overall wellbeing. The role of mental health providers For mental health providers, it's essential to address the challenges faced by individuals who are working in toxic environments. Some notable numbers from the survey: individuals who reported a toxic workplace were more than twice as likely to report that their overall mental health was fair or poor than those who did not report a toxic workplace (58% versus 21%). Of those who reported working in a toxic environment, 76% also conveyed that their work environment has a negative impact on their mental health. Here are some strategies you can use with individuals who are experiencing workplace stress that impacts their mental health: Identify workplace-related stressors. Mental health providers should be vigilant in recognizing signs of workplace-induced stress, anxiety, and depression during therapy sessions. Understanding the work environment helps tailor interventions effectively to address specific challenges. For example, employees working for nonprofit and government organizations were more likely to report a toxic workplace than those in private industry, whereas those in upper management were less likely to report a toxic workplace than individual contributors or front-line workers. Validate and empathize. Clinicians should validate and empathize with individuals experiencing toxic workplaces, helping them recognize that their experiences are real and valid. Provide coping strategies. Equipping individuals with coping mechanisms to manage workplace stress and navigate difficult situations is crucial. Techniques such as mindfulness, boundary setting, and self-care can significantly improve wellbeing. Address trauma. Mental health providers play a vital role in supporting those affected by workplace violence or harassment, aiding in trauma processing and resilience building. Providing a safe space for expression and healing is paramount. Advocate for self-care. Promote the importance of self-care, whether that means encouraging individuals to find an outlet through exercise, hobbies, or spending quality time with loved ones to offset workplace stress. Encourage connection. Although most workers are satisfied with their workplace relationships (89%), more than a quarter of employees report feelings of loneliness or isolation. Nearly 94% of workers say it is important that their workplace be a place where they feel they belong. Explore career alternatives. Dealing with a toxic workplace can be tough. If it's getting to be too much, mental health providers can guide individuals to explore new career options or even help them consider changing career paths. Collaborate with employers. Providers can consult with employers to develop customized mental health support programs. This collaboration ensures the organization addresses the specific needs of its workforce, creating a more targeted and effective approach. What now? The results of the APA survey underscore how widespread the problem of workplace stress has become and emphasize what a toll a toxic workplace takes on mental health. Although workplaces tend to be one of the greatest areas of stress, they can also drive change by emphasizing the importance of self-care and wellbeing. Those involved in the mental health field can provide support to individuals who are experiencing workplace stress but also need to be cognizant of their own workplaces, as well. It's time to shape healthier work environments that empower everyone to thrive. Need help hiring and developing your team? Let InVista help! Further resources American Psychological Association. (May 2023). 2023 Work in America Survey. U.S. Surgeon General’s Framework for Workplace Mental Health & Well-Being. (2022).