Over the past decade, mental health awareness has skyrocketed. People now more than ever feel comfortable discussing their struggles, seeking help, and going forth with treatment without shame. Unfortunately, there is still one place where most believe there is a stigma when being open about one’s mental health issues -the workplace. Deskless workers feel this stigma just as much if not more than their desk-bound peers, but more often than not lack the resources and support that those same peers have access to.

Mental Health Among the Deskless

84% of retail workers claim their mental health has deteriorated since the beginning of the pandemic. This group includes those on the shop floor, in distribution centers, and everyone in between. And these statistics aren’t exclusive to retail; the construction industry has seen similar numbers, with the trucking industry not far behind. With deskless workers making up 80% of the overall workforce, these numbers are troubling. This population is finding themselves dealing with insomnia, depression, anxiety, and self-doubt more and more every day. 

But what can be done? 

Know the Signs

Knowing the signs of mental illness is one of the first steps you can take to help employees who are struggling. Below are just some of the more common signs, but each person is different. Remember to consider the whole picture and person.

  • A sudden change in appearance. An employee who usually dresses well and comes to work well-groomed suddenly showing up unkempt should raise a red flag.
  • Becoming more withdrawn. Some employees just like to keep to themselves, but if a usually boisterous employee is now only giving one-word answers and sitting silently, this may indicate something is wrong.
  • Decreased productivity. It’s hard to give it your all when you’re forcing yourself out of bed every morning. If an employee’s performance has changed and they’re showing other signs of illness, it may be time for a check-in.

Break the Stigma

Many workers fear discussing their mental health struggles at work, especially when it comes to speaking with a supervisor. Some even fear that they will lose their job if they reveal too much. These fears aren’t entirely unfounded, either – just a quick google search will show how popular search terms like “how do I fire someone with a mental illness” and “employee using mental illness as an excuse” truly are.

This sort of mindset needs to change, and fast. 

Empathy is key when it comes to changing this mindset. The last thing someone wants to hear when they are struggling is “we all go through things like this” or “you need to leave personal problems at the door”. They understand that everyone goes through rough patches, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t allowed to feel what they feel at that moment. And, sometimes personal problems can’t be left at the door – you can’t hit pause on a mental illness. Instead, just simply ask if they are okay and offer them a safe space to vent. This can open up further conversation into what you can do to help, what further steps can be taken, and what resources they may need.

Offer the Resources to Help

Once you’ve broken the stigma about talking about mental health struggles, it’s time to make sure your employees get the help they need. Having resources readily available makes things a little bit easier as they seek treatment.

Here are just a few resources that you can provide to employees who need them:

  • An Employee Assistance Program, more commonly known as an EAP. These are intervention programs that help with things that adversely affect an employee’s performance, like mental illness. Some programs even offer medical benefits like counseling and treatment.
  • Medical plans that include coverage for behavioral health. This seems like common sense, but many insurers still don’t have adequate coverage for things like therapy, in-patient treatment, or seeing a psychiatrist. High out-of-pocket cost is a huge deterrent for those seeking treatment.
  • A flexible schedule. Flexibility in scheduling can ensure that your employees have the time they need to get to appointments without having to forfeit pay or PTO. Some employees discover they are more productive on a different schedule during this time, resulting in a win-win situation for everyone.
  • Dedicated Mental Health Days. Differentiating a Sick Day from a Mental Health Day is important here. A Mental Health Day should not be taken from the employee’s PTO or Sick Day bank, as it is a separate issue. Employees are significantly less likely to take a day they truly need if they know the time is coming from either of those sources. 

The Bottom Line


The importance of being a mental health advocate for your workforce cannot be understated. Not only does it benefit your employees, but it also builds trust and loyalty to your organization. Companies that offer mental health days and other resources can expect to see an increase in productivity, lower burnout and turnover rates, and an overall improvement in health among their workers.

There are also tools available that can help you detect those at risk of burnout or may otherwise be dissatisfied in their position, like Anthill Insights. Anthill Insights gives you insight into the wants and needs of your deskless employees, helping you identify and solve issues before they boil over. 

To learn more about Anthill, you can go here: https://www.anthill.co

Jennifer Harris-Kroll

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