• Expert Tips

Employer Branding — Part 12:
Promoting Mental Health —
often still a Taboo

  • Expert Tips

Employ­ee bene­fits are a key topic in employ­er brand­ing. Never­the­less, people often do not like to talk about promot­ing mental health. There is even a term for it: “well-hustling” — the conceal­ment of corre­spond­ing offers. Behind this is the fear of being asso­ci­at­ed with a topic that is still consid­ered embar­rass­ing. With this arti­cle in our Valdivia Expert Tips series, we want to encour­age you to take up the topic for your employ­er brand­ing — both prac­ti­cal­ly and in your inter­nal and exter­nal communication.

The signif­i­cance: facts and figures

  • Health insur­ance compa­nies have been sound­ing the alarm for sever­al years now: exac­er­bat­ed by the coro­n­avirus epidem­ic, mental illness­es among employ­ees are increas­ing signif­i­cant­ly. In 2021, they were the reason for around 19 % of all sick days1 ; in 2022, for exam­ple, depres­sive episodes were already the fourth most common cause of absence from work2 .
  • Study results from prop­er­ty invest­ment special­ist Catel­la on the preferred place of work also indi­rect­ly refer to the mental stress factor3 : 82% of those surveyed would like a combi­na­tion of home office days and the usual social inter­ac­tion in the office; only 2% would feel comfort­able work­ing pure­ly from home.
  • Howev­er, the conse­quences are not just sick days. Accord­ing to a McKin­sey study4 , employ­ees with mental health prob­lems are four times more like­ly to quit their job.

At the same time, the McKin­sey study confirms the well-husbandry prob­lem: almost 90% of all employ­ers already offer well­be­ing programmes. Howev­er, they are clear­ly not effec­tive — either because they are not tailored prop­er­ly or because they are not recog­nised by the work­force or arouse reservations.

The first step: reduce the causes

An arti­cle on hazards in engi­neer­ing profes­sions5 points to caus­es and thus approach­es to improv­ing the stress situ­a­tion, which can also be repre­sen­ta­tive of other sectors:

  • too tight dead­lines, espe­cial­ly if dead­line pres­sure also trig­gers the paral­lel process­ing of differ­ent tasks,
  • too little room for manoeu­vre in the organ­i­sa­tion of their own work,
  • organ­i­sa­tion­al factors such as restruc­tur­ing, forced work inter­rup­tions, loss of breaks and, in gener­al, poor work organ­i­sa­tion and an inco­her­ent manage­ment style.

Reduc­ing such stress factors not only improves produc­tiv­i­ty, the work­ing atmos­phere and the cred­i­bil­i­ty of employ­er brand­ing. As an employ­er, you also fulfil your statu­to­ry duty of care and reduce liabil­i­ty risks.

Mental health promo­tion: ideas for practice

  • Presen­ta­tions and workshops
    Stress can best be reduced if every­one in the compa­ny is aware of it and suit­able reme­dies are known. A first prac­ti­cal step in this direc­tion can be in-house events, ideal­ly led by exter­nal special­ists. Possi­ble topics include person­al time manage­ment, relax­ation tech­niques, burnout and bore­out preven­tion and recog­nis­ing signs of depression.
  • Relax­ation room 
    Where possi­ble, a dedi­cat­ed, suit­ably furnished room for relax­ation is the ideal addi­tion to your break programmes. Here you can retreat if you simply want to switch off for a short while, medi­tate or listen to calm­ing sounds via headphones.
  • Going dark
    A lot of stress aris­es in every­day work­ing life — and even more so in leisure time — due to the need to be constant­ly avail­able. Some compa­nies have already recog­nised this and active­ly block employ­ees’ access to busi­ness emails in their free time. Going dark” at work goes one step further: times when employ­ees cannot be reached, do not receive calls or emails and can concen­trate on impor­tant tasks undisturbed.

State subsi­dies: save taxes for your health

The good news at the end comes from the code of law: “An employ­er can provide up to 600 euros per employ­ee and year tax-free for (…) services to prevent and minimise the risk of illness and to promote health.” (§ 3 No. 34 EstG). The prereq­ui­site is that a certi­fied provider is chosen or that the measures comply with the preven­tion guide­lines of the GKV-Spitzen­ver­band. Also — complete­ly — tax-free are “expens­es for health promo­tion in the company’s own inter­est”, such as setting up the relax­ation room mentioned above.

Promot­ing mental health in the work­place should there­fore not be taboo. Not only is there a broad need for it, but it also makes econom­ic sense. And even the state helps to strength­en your profile as an employ­er and the success of your compa­ny in the long term through a healthy work­ing environment.

  1. AOK Feder­al Asso­ci­a­tion 2022
  2. DAK Health Report 2023
  3. Catel­la, Septem­ber 2023: Home­of­fice Mystery Office — Who is coming back? (
  4. McKin­sey & Compa­ny, April 2023: The State of Organ­i­sa­tions. Survey of deci­sion-makers from over 2,500 compa­nies world­wide, includ­ing over 300 in Germany.
  5. net 2018: Risk assess­ment in the engi­neer­ing professions

(Image: istock­pho­to)