Mental health concerns in the workplace have become increasingly prevalent, with a particular increase between 2019 and 2021. The demographic seemingly most affected are younger or underrepresented employees.
Mental health in the current work landscape
In a post-covid era, there are certain trends which are apparent in the current workplace landscape including the following:
The great resignation – more employees than ever before are leaving their jobs due to mental health reasons, with many attributing specific workplace factors as the reason for their mental health issues. Between 2019 and 2021, 68% of Millennials and 81% of Gen Zers left their jobs for mental health reasons. (Source: Contract Eye)
Mental health issues are more prevalent – now that there is greater awareness, it is clear that mental health challenges are prevalent across all seniority levels, all companies and all sectors. In fact, it was found that 76% of workers surveyed as part of a study reported at least one symptom of a mental health condition in the past year.
More dialogue – more employees are now talking about their mental health than in previous years. This shows that we are heading the right way to reduce stigma surrounding the topic and help people feel more comfortable about seeking treatment.
Underrepresented demographics – the groups still seen to be suffering the most with mental health issues are the younger generations (millennials and Gen-Z) and also underrepresented groups including LGBTQ+, Black and Latino/a workers.
What can companies do to improve employee mental health?
Companies have a certain level of responsibility when it comes to employee mental health and making the workplace a mentally healthy place.
Reduce stressors in the workplace – there are certain workplace factors which are shown to directly impact mental health in a negative way. It was shown that the biggest factors for poor mental health in the workplace were emotionally draining work, poor work-life balance, poor communication practices, and lack of communication or support between colleagues or employees and managers.
Increase investment – an area where companies seem to be investing more time and resources is mental health support. However, many workers have reported greater accessibility to employee-provided resources, including additional paid time off and other types of financial assistance, mental health training, and mental health days and employee benefit programs. It has been argued that these are merely temporary fixes and are not providing a deep-rooted solution to a more open mental health culture.
Introduce more sustainable ways of working – one of the key triggers for employees leaving the workplace is burnout. The return to the office has impacted many workers’ mental health negatively due to the lack of work-life balance or flexibility.
By promoting communication and autonomy, and setting clear boundaries, employees can create a more sustainable work environment and, subsequently, a mentally healthy culture. Additionally, establishing practices such as focused work time, no-meeting days, and no email after hours can help establish a greater sense of work-life balance and help prevent burnout.
Better communication and connection – making time for regular check-ins can make a huge difference. Whether it is organising manager-employee meetings which focus on personal health as well as professional development, or company-wide opportunities for connection, these can help employees feel seen and can positively impact their mental health experience.