Research to Share: Ideas for Building Inclusive and Supportive Workplaces

Research to share - Ideas for building inclusive and supportive workplaces

For your business clients who are looking to build more inclusive and supportive workplaces, new research conducted by The Hartford and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) provides some thought-provoking and insightful food for thought.  And potentially some helpful guidelines for change.

According to the results of this research, United States Black, Latinx, and Asian American-Pacific Islander (AAPI) workers feel less comfortable engaging in mental health conversations in the workplace than do their white associates.

“As more companies spotlight mental health in the workplace, creating a psychologically safe work environment that enables everyone to be part of the conversation is paramount,” said Christopher Swift, chairman and CEO of The Hartford, one of the leading workers’ compensation and group disability insurers. “Employers who prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), invest in employee mental health, and lead with empathy will differentiate themselves in the marketplace, achieve better business outcomes, and help millions of Americans enjoy healthier lives.”

The study asked employees to respond to the following statement:  “I am/would be comfortable talking to my manager about my mental health.”  Results show that 49% of white employees agreed with that statement, while Latinx were at 38%, Blacks at 27%, and AAPIs were at 25%.

The study also asked employees to respond to this statement:  “I am/would be comfortable talking to my co-workers about my mental health.”  Here the results showed that 48% of white employees agreed with it, while Latinx were at 36%, Blacks at 29%, and AAPIs were at 35%.

And finally, the study asked for employee responses to this statement:  “People who talk openly about their own mental health in my company are accepted.”  This time, 51% of white employees said they agreed with that statement, while Latinx were at 37%, Blacks were at 35%, and AAPIs were at 29%.

This new research comes on the heels of a survey earlier this year from The Hartford that showed that 71% of employers believe that the deteriorating mental health of their workforce is having a negative financial impact on their company.  If that’s not a statistic worthy of attention, I’m not sure what is.

Although most survey respondents reported having at least a few symptoms of a mental health condition within the past two weeks, a full 30% of the workforce in the United States say that they would not turn to any workplace resource if they needed mental health help, according to The Hartford-NAMI 2022 research.

The employees surveyed pointed to privacy concerns, stigma, and low awareness of employer offerings as all contributing to a lack of reliance on workplace resources for their mental health. AAPI (35%) and Black (32%) workers were more likely than their white colleagues (21%) to agree that aspects of their personal identity make it or would make it hard to discuss mental health at work. White workers were more likely to agree their workplace is open and inclusive, empathetic, and flexible as it relates to mental health care.

“Our research clearly highlights how intersectional aspects of people’s identities can affect how they perceive and experience mental health in the workplace,” said Daniel H. Gillison Jr., CEO of NAMI, the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization. “We urge employers to act now to dispel stigma, expand access to mental health care and provide flexibility for more workers to get the help they deserve.”

The research revealed impediments to robust and equitable mental health support, but respondents also were able to identify actions that employers might undertake to foster empathy and increase engagement.  In a press release highlighting the study, these are some steps that respondents saw as being potentially helpful:

  • Create a central location that provides easy access to all information about company-provided mental health resources, programs, and services;
  • Communicate frequently, using easy-to-understand language, about accessing mental health help, particularly to help employees cope with news and current events, as well as financial pressures, such as rising housing and gasoline prices;
  • Educate senior leaders and managers about mental health conditions and resources, while encouraging peer-to-peer support, such as programs by employee resource groups.
  • Lean on nonprofit organizations and community groups, such as NAMI, which has mental health education and programs designed for identity and cultural dimensions, such as Black, Latinx and AAPI communities.

If you serve businesses, business owners, or key company decision makers, your continued awareness of the importance of mental health in the workplace is important. Quite possibly, you know people who can benefit from better understanding how to foster empathy within their organizations.  Quite possibly you can be a valuable resource. 


Charles K. Hirsch, CLU, is the president of Hirsch Communications Consulting, LLC, a communications consulting operation in Florissant, MO. For many years, Chuck was the editor and publisher of Life Insurance Selling magazine and has published several of the leading life insurance industry magazines. He continues to contribute articles on a regular basis to industry publications, in addition to providing a wide range of writing, editing, content development, and marketing services through his firm. He is a regular contributor to NAILBA Now e-Newsletter as well as to Perspectives magazine.