Unhealthy work environments increase the burden of mental health conditions, but steps can be taken to help.

When supportive and constructive, the workplace can be a positive environment that makes you feel accomplished and valued. But when it’s not, it can be a major source of stress that affects your mental health.

With skyrocketing rates of anxiety and depression, ensuring that your workplace feels safe and supportive is crucial. Basic factors like temperature and lighting are also important to overall workplace wellness.

Not everything in the workplace environment can be controlled. But there are steps you can take to help manage an unhealthy environment.

Have you ever been subjected to sharp deadlines, high-performance expectations, or troublesome co-workers? Or maybe your workplace is disorganized, unsupportive, and inflexible.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), negative and stressful work environments are associated with anxiety, depression, and substance misuse.

Not only interfering with your productivity, but workplace stress can also lead to burnout, difficulty sleeping, and concentration issues, according to the American Psychological Association (APA).

While some work environments are unjustly negative, the nature of some occupations can be more stressful than others. A 2022 study identified that jobs with high physical and psychological demands pose the biggest risk.


Generally referring to rudeness and disrespect, workplace incivility fosters a negative work environment and poses a risk to mental health, according to a 2016 study.

A 2019 study identified emotional exhaustion as a key association with workplace incivility. Symptoms of emotional exhaustion can be things like irritability and insomnia.

Incivility is particularly problematic in the workplace because it’s more of an issue with an organization’s overall climate and culture. And while it’s not necessarily aggressive behavior, it can encourage it.

It’s evident in actions such as:

  • sending negative emails
  • spreading rumors about others
  • leaving errors unfixed
  • rudely interrupting others
  • treating others as inferior


It’s no surprise that workplace bullying can affect your mental health. Whether through offensive verbal comments or unwelcome physical contact, bullying can lead to:

  • decreased self-confidence
  • a sense of vulnerability
  • frustration and anger
  • anxiety or panic

Bullying can take many forms, some of which include:

  • offensive or malicious jokes
  • intimidation or embarrassment
  • purposefully excluding someone
  • undermining or interfering with someone’s ability to work
  • yelling or cursing

The WHO also identified bullying as a leading concern for mental health outcomes and a common cause of work-related stress. Extending beyond mental health, it’s also costly for employers in various ways.

Unsuitable job content

If you’ve ever been assigned a task outside of your competency, you know how overwhelming and troubling it can feel. There are also job environments where you’re expected to complete unreasonable or excessive workloads on a daily basis.

In any case, the WHO identified unsuitable job content as a major contributor to mental health outcomes.

If what you’re being asked to do is outside of your job description or the workload is unreasonable, it can challenge your ability to cope and significantly increase the chance of experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition.

In general, the less stressed you are at work, the more productive you’ll be, according to a 2021 study. Your productivity levels can plummet if you’re trying to balance demanding workloads with problematic co-workers or toxic company cultures.

But aside from employee relations and company culture, the physical office environment can also interfere with productivity.

A 2018 study also showed that the following factors affect overall workplace productivity.

  • temperature
  • air quality
  • lighting
  • noise
  • color

Researchers noted that a quiet and comfortable work environment makes you feel secure and promotes productivity.

If you’ve ever tried to work in a hot or noisy room, you know first-hand how much these basic factors can interfere with your productivity.

Establish boundaries

A sincere conversation with your boss about your job description and whether or not you’re being treated fairly is a simple way to raise awareness about your boundaries.

Boundaries with co-workers can make them aware that some of their behavior is unwelcome. Some people aren’t aware that what they’re doing is offensive and need to be told so.

Talk with your supervisor

Calmy explaining workplace issues to your supervisor can either immediately solve the problem or may alert them to a larger issue.

If your supervisor is part of the issue, then contacting your human resources department could be the best idea. They’ll want to know what’s affecting your productivity and how they can help.

Be proactive

Workplace culture is ultimately advanced by those who buy into it. If your negative work culture insists normalizes spreading rumors, criticizing others, or treating others as inferiors, you don’t have to follow suit.

Speaking kindly about others and normalizing positive behaviors can help correct negative workplace culture. It takes time, but modeling positive behaviors can help shift the overall atmosphere.

Unhealthy and uncomfortable work environments can place an undue burden on your mental health. Your workplace should feel like a safe and secure place that you enjoy traveling to.

If your workplace is causing you undue stress, consider taking a few steps to remedy the situation. Talking with the right person can help resolve existing relational issues or improve the overall climate.