Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Vivamus convallis sem tellus, vitae egestas felis vestibule ut.

Error message details.

Reuse Permissions

Request permission to republish or redistribute SHRM content and materials.

9 Mental Health Questions for Your Employee Engagement Surveys

Employee engagement survey

Employee feedback is essential for creating and maintaining a work environment that supports mental health.

By including mental health questions on your employee engagement surveys, employers not only demonstrate a clear organizational commitment to employee well-being, but also gain insights that will help them improve the mental health support they provide.

Clarify Goals

Begin your revamp of your employee engagement survey by clarifying what you’re trying to accomplish by measuring mental health, said London-based independent consultant Amy McKeown, who trains HR professionals in supporting workplace mental health.

Ask a few foundational questions before starting, she advises: “What are we trying to do? Are we looking to get a snapshot of employee mental health,  or measuring what people know about available mental health benefits, resources, policies and processes? Why are we doing what we’re doing, and how do we measure it?”

McKeown works with large U.K. organizations, many of which “went out and bought any number of random mental health resources during the pandemic.”

And yet not much has changed for them, she says: “Mental health absences, for instance, remain high.” Purchasing benefits or apps without having a clear strategic framework in place for how they will be used and measured “doesn’t really help anyone except the vendors.”

9 Questions You Should Ask About Mental Health

Once you’ve defined your goals, think carefully about what you’ll ask in your employee engagement surveys.  Determine what your organization will do with the feedback. Experts weighed in with important questions to ask and answer.

You can, and should, customize each of these recommended questions so they align with your organization’s needs:

1. How comfortable do you feel talking about your mental health with your manager, HR and your colleagues?

Creating a work environment where people feel comfortable coming forward and discussing their mental health concerns is foundational for any improvement. Much work remains to be done to destigmatize workplace mental health, because 8 in 10 workers report that shame and stigma keep them from seeking treatment, according to health care provider Kaiser Permanente.

“Conversations are the most common way people seek support for their mental health and are typically how organizations learn about them,” said Bernie Wong, knowledge lead and principal at workplace mental health consultancy Mind Share Partners. “Responses to this question help you understand the prevalence of stigma, how comfortable people feel about coming forward and who people go to when they seek support.” 

2. Do you understand what resources are available to support your mental health?

Providing benefits doesn’t mean that people are aware of, or utilizing, them. For example, a Mind Share Partners Mental Health at Work Report found that only 50 percent of employees knew the proper procedure for getting support for their mental health.

“The mental health resources you offer could cover a wide breadth of benefits, therapy, self-care tools and more,” Wong said. “But your people may not even be aware of them. Educating people about available resources is a key step that helps empower them to take care of themselves.” 

3. How easy is it to access your mental health benefits? 

“The more friction and complications around accessing benefits,” said Mark DeFee, a workplace wellness consultant, “the less likely they’ll be used.” 

Organizations can work both internally and with their vendors to streamline the process of accessing benefits. Wong recommended “developing a tool, perhaps a portal on your website, that explains all your mental health resources in one easy-to-navigate place.”

4. Have you used mental health benefits or taken time off due to mental health concerns?

A Gallup report found that workers with fair or poor mental health have nearly 12 days of unplanned absences annually, compared with 2.5 days for all other workers. If someone did take a mental health day, for example, were they transparent with their manager/HR about their reasons?

5. Have you ever endorsed mental health benefits to a co-worker? 

“This question gets at how satisfied employees are with their mental health benefits, without asking them directly,” DeFee said. “If an employee has ever recommended a mental health benefit to a co-worker, they clearly believe there's value in it and are also comfortable recommending it to someone else.”  

6. How would you describe the work culture here when it comes to supporting mental health? 

Use the answers to this question to map out the places where workplace stress and burnout do the most damage to people’s mental health. 

“There are so many factors involved with burnout,” McKeown said, “and when you ask this question, you might get simplistic responses about heavy workloads and lack of work/life balance.”

Wong offered a potential solution: “When you ask this question, consider breaking down work culture into the core determinants of burnout, which are workload, fairness at work, role clarity, autonomy, flexibility, whether people feel rewarded for their work, as well as community and belonging.”

Employers have historically offered mental health support that focuses on the individual (via benefits and wellness apps). “But the biggest driver of mental health concerns is workplace culture,” Wong said, “where we’ve unfortunately seen the least change.”

7. To what extent do you believe our leadership prioritizes workplace mental health?

Support for mental health should come from managers and co-workers, including senior leadership. When leaders “talk the talk” on mental health, but their behaviors aren’t aligned with their words, people notice and don’t feel supported.

“Leaders play a determining role in setting work culture,” Wong said, “in concrete ways around policies, but also through establishing norms around work.” A new hire, for example, “might make a rough assumption about what's a reasonable amount of work each day by watching her manager, colleagues and the leadership team.”

8. Have you experienced any stigma related to mental health in the workplace? 

“We know that the biggest obstacle to accessing mental health care is social stigma,” DeFee said, “so asking about how colleagues have responded to someone’s mental health concerns is important. Has someone failed to take your concerns seriously? Or have they been supportive and encouraged you to seek help? Those moments matter.”

9. How can we improve communication around mental health in the organization? 

How you communicate about mental health can matter as much as what you communicate.

“Some employees may want shorter, written communications, while others might want a video,” DeFee said. “If you put up a poster about mental health in the break room, for example, some employees might not want to be seen looking at it.” 

Turning Insight into Action

When you start to ask mental health questions, employees will expect you to do something with their feedback. Making positive changes will not only improve mental health outcomes, but also build momentum for increased participation in your surveys. 

Joseph Romsey is a freelance writer in Boston.


​An organization run by AI is not a futuristic concept. Such technology is already a part of many workplaces and will continue to shape the labor market and HR. Here's how employers and employees can successfully manage generative AI and other AI-powered systems.