I'm Listening: Is Now the Time to Hire a Workplace Counselor?


HR Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for HR pros

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

With mental health a more significant issue than ever for employers, should you be looking into the pros and cons of hiring a workplace counselor?

Article 4 Minutes
I'm Listening: Is Now the Time to Hire a Workplace Counselor?

Employee mental health should be a top priority for all employers. While this has always been true, it's more relevant than ever in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had an undeniable impact on mental health and wellbeing around the world.

Approximately four out of ten adults in the US have reported symptoms of anxiety or depression during the crisis, according to KFF, a non-profit organization focusing on national health issues and policy analysis.

Employers all over the world can expect to see similar trends, with mental wellbeing likely to be affected by factors such as:

  • Isolation from friends and family
  • Fears over job security
  • Physical health concerns
  • Increased stress for parents worrying about the impact on their children's education

With Mental Health Awareness Week approaching, now’s the ideal time to focus on this subject within your organization.

One particular question to consider is what you could have to gain from hiring a workplace counselor. What are the advantages and drawbacks of this approach that need to be taken into account?

Workplace counseling: the benefits

Hiring a workplace counsellor could have numerous benefits, not just for your workforce but for the business as a whole.

Recognizing the issue

One of the most important things any company can do, as far as workplace mental health is concerned, is to simply acknowledge the importance of the issue and show a genuine interest in supporting employees in their efforts to stay mentally well.

Hiring a workplace counselor can be an effective way to do this. It demonstrates that you take this subject seriously and you're willing to invest the time and money required to provide help when people really need it.

Easy access

There could be many people in your workforce who’d benefit from speaking to a counselor, but either haven't given it enough thought or just don't have the time or the opportunity to make an appointment.

Having a dedicated counseling service available in their workplace, and encouragement from their manager to take some time out of their schedule to book a session, will make it infinitely easier for people to look after their mental health by speaking to a professional.

"Having therapists on-site is much more convenient for employees, saving them valuable time as they don't have to travel to an appointment. It also means they are more likely to engage in therapy as we're making it as simple as possible to access.” - Jessica DiVento, mental health program manager at Google.

Staff retention

From a business perspective, making counseling easily available to your workforce can lead to a significant improvement in employee retention, since people want to work for organizations that care about them and their welfare.

On-site counseling can also have the long-term benefit of making people feel more positive, secure and confident, which will fuel staff engagement and productivity.

According to research by Mind Share Partners, 20% of workers have willingly left a previous role for mental health reasons.

Workplace counseling: the risks

While there are many potential benefits to be gained from hiring an on-site counselor, it's also important to consider the possible risks and disadvantages of this approach.


Firstly, you need to be aware that some people may struggle to get on board with the idea of talking to a counselor at work, either for privacy reasons or because they prefer to keep their job and personal life entirely separate.

As Robert Gill, a HR business partner at Square has pointed out, some employees 'might not feel super comfortable going to therapy at work'. The prospect of having a counseling session and then going straight back into the regular working day could also be a strange one for many people.

If this is the case in your business, you might see limited take-up of counseling services, making it an unwise investment.

One approach might not work for all

Undergoing counseling is a very personal experience, and anyone thinking about going down this road might want to think carefully about who they speak to. Some people will have to try several different therapists before they find one they're fully comfortable with.

There's no such thing as a 'one-size-fits-all' approach to mental wellbeing, so it could be difficult to find a workplace counselor who can offer value and support to your entire workforce.

If you're interested in offering on-site counseling, it's worth looking for a therapist with plenty of experience and a broad skill set that can be applied in lots of different scenarios.

Practical considerations

Managers often need to look at business projects and potential investments from a very pragmatic perspective. As far as workplace counseling is concerned, you'll need to consider practical questions such as:

  • Do we have the space and the right facilities to accommodate an on-site therapist?
  • How many counselors will we need to hire if employee demand for the service is high?
  • How much will it cost?

Taking these factors into account is vital if you want to increase the chances of workplace therapy delivering positive results for your employees, and consequently for the business as a whole.

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