In workplaces around the world, there’s a growing chorus of employees expressing concerns about the toll their jobs are taking on their mental health. Recent research by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) sheds light on this global phenomenon.
One striking finding from SHRM’s research is that one in three employees in various countries report that their job has negatively impacted their mental health over the past six months. These effects manifest as feelings of being overwhelmed and anxious, with nearly 30% feeling overwhelmed and another 29% grappling with anxiety at least once a week.
The study, released at the outset of Mental Health Awareness Month, delves into the complex relationship between work and mental health. It reveals that work-induced mental health challenges are not confined to a single country but are a global concern.
Employers Have a Key Role
Interestingly, the research also highlights the significant role employers can play in ameliorating this situation. Almost half of employees worldwide, at 45%, now expect their organizations to provide a higher level of mental health support than in the previous year.
SHRM’s lead researcher, Ragan Decker, Ph.D., SHRM-CP, underscores the growing awareness of mental health’s importance in the workplace. Decker points out that organizations need to acknowledge and adapt to these evolving expectations from their workforce.
While the impact of the workplace on mental health is undeniable, it’s crucial to note that work can also have a positive effect. About one in three workers globally ( 31% ) reports that their job has had a positive impact on their mental health over the past six months. This influence, which varies among different age groups, demonstrates the dual nature of work as both a risk factor and a protective factor for mental health.
Increasing Mental Health Support at Work
Addressing this mental health crisis requires proactive efforts from employers. While many organizations have implemented employee assistance programs (EAPs) and other mental health resources, the study suggests that more needs to be done. A staggering 59% of global employees believe their organizations offer insufficient mental health resources.
What are employees seeking in terms of mental health support? The study reveals that paid mental health days (58%), mental health coverage as part of employee health care plans (35%), and free or subsidized virtual mental health services (35%) are among the top preferences. Employees also express interest in mindfulness or yoga classes (26%), EAPs (23%), mental health apps (21%), mental health support groups (16%), and mandatory mental health training for managers and employees (16% each). Workshops on mental health (15%) and educational resources on mental health (13%) are also on their radar.
To meet employee demands, organizations must also offer more mental health accommodations. These include paid or unpaid time off (48%), flexible scheduling (44%), and work breaks (32%).
Healthier Minds Mean Healthier Businesses
Employer support is not only vital for employees but also for the organizations themselves. Employees experiencing mental health issues are less productive and healthy. Furthermore, they are more likely to seek opportunities elsewhere. Nearly half (49%) of employees whose mental health has been negatively affected are actively job searching, compared to those with no impact (23%) or positive impact (14%).
The statistics indicate that 41% of employees are likely to leave their current jobs if offered new positions with significantly better mental health benefits. Younger generations, in particular, prioritize mental health benefits when considering job opportunities, with 61% of Generation Z employees and 48% of Millennials indicating they would likely leave their current jobs for better mental health benefits.
These figures underscore the “potential impact that poor mental health support can have on employee retention” and emphasize the “importance of employers providing adequate mental health support to attract and retain talent,” according to Decker.
The mental health challenges faced by employees in workplaces globally are undeniable. Employers must take proactive steps to address these concerns, not only to support their workforce’s well-being but also to safeguard their organizations from the risks associated with mental health issues. As younger generations increasingly prioritize mental health benefits, organizations must adapt to evolving workforce expectations and prioritize mental health support as a key aspect of their employment offerings. Ultimately, the well-being of both employees and organizations hinges on these efforts.