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Bluemind Foundation . 24-Sep-2021

Millennials and Generation Z—making mental health at work a priority

Emma Codd 3380
Millennials and Generation Z—making mental health at work a priority

If business leaders want to actively help millennials and Gen Zs to thrive at work, they need to prioritize mental health and embed a workplace culture where stigma does not exist.

Introduction
2020 forced many of us to tackle
monumental new challenges while
continuing to grapple with long-standing
issues. For millennials and Generation Z
(Gen Z) workers, the mental health
challenges they faced pre-pandemic were
further strained by last year’s
uncertainties. This year, as COVID-19
vaccination levels rise in some countries
and economies begin to reopen slowly,
signs of hopeful progress are
emerging. Yet despite this, the Deloitte Global 2021 Millennial and Gen Z Survey shows that stress and
anxiety levels remain high – and that
there is much more to do when it comes to
mental health in the workplace. Deloitte Global’s research, which was conducted at the beginning of this year and
surveyed nearly 23,000 millennial and Gen Z respondents from across 45 countries,
reveals that some worrying mental health data trends from the 2020 Millennial Survey
have continued into 2021. In general, millennials are still, first and foremost, worried
about the health of their families and their financial futures – with both also being two
growing causes of concern for Gen Zs. Both generations also noted that job prospects are
a leading stress driver, with Gen Zs placing it at the top of their list. Women report
experiencing higher levels of stress and anxiety than men, likely because they continue to
be disproportionately affected by job losses and increased family care responsibilities. Although millennials and Gen Zs surveyed said that they’re experiencing increased stress
and anxiety, they remain hesitant about vocalizing these challenges at work, with nearly
six in 10 saying that they did not tell their leader how they were feeling. The majority of
respondents who feel increased stress did not take off to manage their mental health.
And, as was true last year, of those respondents who did take time off work due to
stress, nearly half gave their employer a different reason – suggesting that despite recent
efforts to normalize conversations about mental health at work, workplace stigma
persists. As members of these two generations – who together account for a large part of the
global workforce – juggle competing priorities and pressures, striking a healthy work-life
balance is an enduring challenge. This perhaps explains why it is also a major priority for
millennials and Gen Zs when it comes to the workplace, particularly for those in
leadership positions.


High stress levels
continue
In the Deloitte Global survey, a concerning 41% of millennials and 46% of Gen Zs shared
that they feel stressed or anxious most or all of the time, only a three percent drop for
millennials and a two percent drop for Gen Zs from 2020. When comparing their current
lives to the ones they led before the COVID-19 pandemic, around half of respondents say
they feel more stressed than before the pandemic – with nearly a third of millennials
(31%) and Gen Zs (29%) describing this as a ‘little more’ stress, and one in five reporting
feeling a lot more stressed and anxious than before.
Women are experiencing higher levels of stress
Although millennials and Gen Zs across the board are experiencing heightened stress,
there are differences among men and women. Similar to last year’s survey, women
report feeling stressed and anxious more than men; this ‘gender gap’ is 45% to 37%
among millennials, and 54% to 39% among Gen Zs.


Overall drivers of stress and anxiety vary widely
When asked to identify the sources of their stress and anxiety, these generations offer a
wide range of factors. Both millennials and Gen Zs rank financial concerns or uncertainty
the highest. And in a labor market that’s still fluctuating, it’s not hard to see why
concerns about jobs and job security caused an increase in stress for nearly four in 10
millennials (37%) and just over one in four Gen Zs (32%) surveyed. Outside of their economic worries, respondents also listed widespread concerns about
their health, and that of their loved ones. When it comes to their own physical health,
50% and 46% of millennials and Gen Zs, respectively, say it contributes a little to them
feeling stressed and anxious, and 33% and 35% report that it contributes a lot. On top of
that, just over a quarter of millennials (26%) and 31% of Gen Zs say that the state of their
mental health, or that of their family and friends, has heightened their anxiety levels. And
overall, their family’s welfare was a leading stressor for both groups, as was the case in
2020.


Mental health stigma
endures


Despite more discussion about mental health during the
pandemic, the stigma at work endures
Although nearly half of millennials and Gen Zs (48%) report feeling more stressed since
the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, their employers most likely don’t know how much
they’ve been affected. Indeed, almost six in 10 of these respondents admit that they
have not spoken to their employers or line managers about their increased stress or
anxiety.
Not only are they not talking about it, they seldom take time off to address it. Only 31%
of millennials and 35% of Gen Zs have taken time away from work as a result of stress
and anxiety, and those who do are still hesitant to disclose that it’s for mental health
reasons. An astounding 49% and 47% of millennials and Gen Zs who have taken time off
work for mental health reasons have given their employer a different reason for this
absence. And for those who have never requested time off for mental health reasons,
46% and 51% of them said that they would not give their employer the real reason if they
did.
With an inclusive workplace being critical for removing stigma, it is noteworthy that only
around 21% of millennials and 25% of Gen Zs say that their employer performs very well
at enabling their employees to be their true, authentic selves at work. Nearly 45% of both
groups say that their workplace is doing fairly well, which means that one in four
millennials (25%) and Gen Zs (25%) give their employer a “poor” grade.
Better workplace support is needed
When asked how their employers are performing when it comes to supporting their
mental and physical health, only one in five millennials and Gen Zs said that their
employer is doing well. Four in 10 ranked them as doing fairly well, and around three in
10 graded their workplace’s performance as poor. While this is concerning as a data
point in itself, it is more so when considering that those millennials surveyed who report
lower levels of support from their employers when it comes to their mental health also
report higher levels of feeling stressed and anxious all or most of the time.


Conclusion
The past year has seen people around the globe face unprecedented challenges - leading
to increased stress and anxiety and a longing for better work-life balance for many
surveyed. This survey has provided an insight into the mental health and wellbeing concerns of a
demographic that makes up a large part of the workforce; from concern for the health of
their families to worrying about their financial futures and job prospects – stress and
anxiety still prevails for many. Notably, women report higher levels of stress and anxiety
over the past year than men, as they did in the 2020 survey. While the COVID-19 pandemic has seen the subject of mental health
receive more focus by employers, many of those people surveyed remain
reluctant to tell their employers when they experience mental health
challenges – with nearly half of those who have taken time off work for
mental health reasons (such as stress and anxiety) still not giving their
employer the real reason, while those who have not taken such time
off also say they would not disclose the reason should they need to
take such an absence. Thus, this increased focus had not necessarily
resulted in the reduction of workplace stigma. The survey has also shown the positive impact of a supportive
workplace - with a clear correlation between the support offered
when it comes to mental health at work and the level of stress and
anxiety reported by employees (with the survey finding that those
who work for more supportive employers reported lower levels of
stress and anxiety). Yet it has also shown that many organizations have
more to do – with only one in five seeing their employer as doing a
good job when it comes to supporting their mental and physical
health, with around a third even describing such support as poor. The findings also emphasize the criticality of employers enabling work-life balance, both
as a contributor to good mental health and as a means to retain talent – but only one in
five of those surveyed believe their employer is doing a good job of supporting them to
achieve this. Finally, the survey is a reminder of the importance of actions inside the workplace, even
where the local environment may present a challenge, with around half of those polled
reporting their view that discrimination based on someone’s mental health frequently
happens in their country. This research has shown that there has never been a more pressing need for employers
to make mental health at work a priority – to ensure that the workplace is stigma-free
and to provide a working environment where all employees can thrive; one in which they
feel supported and where work-life balance is the norm.




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