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Prioritizing Mental Health At Work Across Generations


Jonathan Gary is the CEO of i-Kare Treatment Center and a business owner, author, motivational speaker, entrepreneur and investor.

The year 2021 saw disquieting survey revelations when it came to mental health. Research from notable agencies highlighted trends in mental health and increased stress; one such study came from Deloitte, which conducted its analysis on almost 23,000 millennial and Generation Z participants from across more than 40 countries.

The effect on mental health in recent years has largely been influenced by the ongoing pandemic, which has not only resulted in health and future concerns for the sampled population, but has also meant uncertainty for the job market and financial prospects.

The primary concern for both millennial and Gen Z generations is the health of their families, followed closely by their financial outlook. In light of recent global economic trends, the prospect of finding a job/career is also one of the dominant stress drivers, primarily for the latter generation.

The Prevalence Of Stress

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As of 2018, millennials made up the largest share of the U.S. workforce, while it is estimated that Gen Z will make up 27% of the global workforce by 2025. Today, millennials and Gen Z make up a significant share of the workforce, and it is clear that stress is a dominant concern for both generations, especially for women.

A distressing number of millennials and Generation Zs were found to be stressed and/or anxious. According to Deloitte, 48% of the Gen Zers and 44% of the millennials surveyed reported feeling stressed all or most of the time. Women are affected by anxiety and stress more than men, likely due to the fact that they “have been disproportionately affected by job losses and increased family care responsibilities.”

According to a 2021 Deloitte report, “Millennials and Generation Z — making mental health at work a priority,” half of the participants reported they felt more stressed and anxious than before the Covid-19 pandemic, with one out of five feeling “a lot more stressed and anxious” than before and a third of millennials and Generation Zers putting it as “little more” stressed.

Workplace Mental Health Stigma

There have been ongoing discussions and increased awareness around mental health since the pandemic, but the stigma in the workplace has proved to be robust.

Too many employers are unaware of how much their employees and subordinates have been affected; according to Deloitte research, only 38% of millennials and 35% of Gen Zers have spoken openly with their supervisors about their stress. There are many reasons for this, such as a hesitancy to disclose stress and anxiety for fear of how it will be perceived in the workplace. In fact, in another revelation, almost half of the respondents admitted they used an alibi reason when they took an absence for stress or their mental health.

Increasing social and global unrest — for example, the murder of George Floyd and the resulting protests in 2020, as well as incidents of violence, racism, minority injustices and crime in the past year — has also played a role in further deteriorating the mental health of millennials and Gen Zers. An equal 28% of both generations revealed that the social and political climate has contributed to their stress.

Further, a McKinsey podcast from December 2020, “COVID-19 and behavioral health: Consequences for companies and employees,” reported that 46% of Latinx and Black Americans reported depression and anxiety, as well as increased proportions of Asian Americans, American Indians and Alaskan Natives, reflecting “the stress experienced by these groups not only from the broader social context but also on the everyday level.” The McKinsey podcast also highlighted that the pandemic aggravated the health crisis due to unemployment and social isolation.

The Importance Of Prioritizing Mental Health In The Workplace

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As I shared in a past article, there are benefits to prioritizing your employees’ mental health. In my experience, you will see increased productivity and employee retention by showing employees that you care.

Employers need to recognize that current affairs — affairs happening both inside and outside of the workplace — impact their employees. The first step toward breaking down mental health stigma is awareness. It’s important to take all factors into account before you can address issues of mental health.

From there, offering transparency, accountability and leadership, as I discuss further here, are good steps to show employees that you care. If employees feel that better workplace care is given and you are prioritizing work-life balance, it could work wonders for them.

Research has only continued to show that there is a pressing need for employers to combat stigma in the workplace and to ensure that mental health is a priority for the business and for everyone involved in 2022 and beyond.


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