It’s not only psychological trauma or history of abuse, it’s environmental stress due to a negative working environment that also leads to people having more acute issues bearing on mental illness. With the workload taking up more precious time, ensuring that the employees are feeling comfortable by promoting mental health in the workplace is the vital role both employers and employees have to consider.
According to the World Health Organization, around 264 million people in the world are suffering from the symptoms of mental health issues as it found numbers of employees experiencing depression, anxiety, and disability. With those high numbers of sufferers, it affects the lost productivity of the global economy up to US$ 1 trillion. The WHO furthermore said that a negative working environment can have an adverse impact on mental health through some kind of actions like bullying or harassment at work.
While The Covid-19 pandemic brought recession over the global economy, it worsened those who have been suffering from mental health. As the coronavirus took place, it brought worries and stresses and made everyone experience certain conditions like job loss, isolation, and any other situations linked as the outcomes of mental health issues.
It also looks terrible when we take a look into essential workers that continue to face several challenges. They get a higher risk of catching a virus than any other workers in the different fields. During the pandemic, essential workers reportedly got 42% of anxiety disorder, 25% of substance use, and 22% of suicidal thoughts compared to non-essential workers by the data of Kaiser Family Foundation.
Then what does that data tell us about? It means that it’s essential to build a healthy workplace environment. Not only the employers but also employees have a responsibility for creating a positive workplace.
How Mental Health Affects Work and Employment?
Multiple factors are classified as risk factors that cause symptoms of mental disorders. When it is brought to the working environment, the World Health Organization explains that it relates to several factors, including the interactions between types of work that give employees inflexible workload, unsuitable tasks that don’t meet the employee’s skills and competencies, organizational and managerial environment which has poor communication and practices, and availability of support that is still inadequate to perform employee’s work.
Moreover, there are other recent risk factors of mental health at work that just come up as well as the pandemic emerges and spreads. Also concerning this issue, Harvard Business Review from what they have covered in ‘It’s a New Era for Mental Health at Work’ explains how mental health changed over the years related to the pandemic COVID-19. They call it “a new era for mental health at work” as they discovered around 42% of global employees have experienced mental health issues since the COVID-19 pandemic started.
HBR moreover examined the data on how employees experience challenges of mental health and found it escalated from 2019 to 2021. They sorted the causes into four main reasons, an increase of attrition, high prevalence, and widespread disclosure, and the implications of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).
- Mental health issues make 68% of Millennials and 81% of Gen Z leave their job in 2021. It’s increasing high compared to the 2019 rate when it was still 50% of Millennials and 75% of Gen Z were leaving roles for mental health reasons.
- Mental health also challenges employees across all organizational levels. A 2021 Study of HBR reveals that respondents who come from C-level and executives also report mental health symptoms.
- While nearly two out of three respondents speak up about their mental health issues at work, only 49% of them talk about their problem with positive responses.
- As the implication of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), specified groups including millennials and Gen Zers, LGBTQ+, Black, and Latinx respondents are struggling the most with mental health problems. Around 54% of respondents experience mental health issues due to the factor of DEI in 2021, increasing from the 2019 rate which is still 41%.
From the study, HBR concludes the risk factor that leads employees to potentially experience mental health issues. One of the issues is how the way employees work isn’t sustainable. Another most common factor is employees draining emotionally due to several conditions like monotonous, boring, stressful, and overwhelming. What’s more, the pandemic also worsened their work-life balance with an adjusted way of working.
As the pandemic brings the new model of work called remote workforce, it also risks employees to experience this issue as it makes poor communication practice. It’s almost impossible to find support as there is no strong sense of connection between colleagues or managers.
Pandemic, Employment Stress, and an Impacted Gen Zs’ Mental Health
Not only the economy, but the pandemic of COVID-19 also has an impact on the world of work for younger employees. From the global study of the Workforce Institute at Kronos Inc. which involved around 3000 Gen Zs from 11 countries, they mentioned that one out of three Generation Zs claimed themselves as the ‘hardest-working generation’ in the workforce. Tim Sackett, an SHRM Senior Certified Professional, moreover said that Generation Z workers were raised during the ‘Great Recession’. It’s because Gen Zs have to find a job earlier to cover their costs as teens than Millenials.
What’s more interesting is that even though Generation Z is known as the ‘hardest-working generation’, they still suffer from anxiety due to work expectations. The skills of negotiating, networking, long hours working, or capability of speaking confidently in public are some kind of workplace activities Gen Z is not sure they’re prepared enough for.
Following this occurrence, American Psychological Association (APA) mentioned that 91% of Gen Z adults have experienced both emotional and physical symptoms related to stress. Only half of all Generation Zs are reportedly able to manage their stress while 58% of others feel depressed and sad, and 55% feel a lack of interest, demotivation, and lack of energy and enthusiasm.
What led them to face these issues? APA further said that money and work become the most significant factors. Two out of three or about 64% of adults report money and work as stressors. Once new questions were added to dive deep into the root of problems, APA found that more than three in 10 Generation Zs said that sources of stress include personal debt, housing instability, and hunger.
Addressing Mental Health at Work: Actions Needed
Taking care of mental health at work means there should be a healthy workplace that is stably built. To address this issue, taking certain actions like promoting and protecting health, safety and well-being will be a responsibility both for workers and managers.
Action in Organizational Level
Promoting mental health and wellbeing would be a kind of strategy which involves roles and responsibilities at any level including managers, supervisors, or employees. When it comes to the organizational level, managers will play a key role in building a positive working environment.
Certain actions to build a positive working environment include preventing stress and poor mental health, providing a supportive environment especially for employees with a history of mental health issues, and also helping the employee who copes with this problem due to discrimination or exclusion from employment to enter or return to work. Here are a few detailed measures to build a supportive workplace at the organizational level
SHRM from what they have published “Generation Z Says They Work the Hardest, But Only When They Want To” said that 1 in 3 members of Generation Z will stay with a company if it’s supervised by a supportive manager who leads them to always feel motivated at work. This means that Gen Z truly relies on managers who can mitigate all their anxiety about work and success. Led by leaders who inspire them to day-to day work, encourage them to discover new things, and develop them professionally over time, are things Gen Zs look for in the workplace nowadays.
What is more, a survey from May 6 held by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants and the International Federation of Accountants classified the factors that can engage Gen Z to be a part of a company. There should be several aspects possessed by the company to easily engage and retain Gen Z that are more open about mental health issues, including the workplace that promotes the mental health of their employee, nurturing their ‘authenticity’, giving Gen Z workers space to share their opinion, and having a clear and stated purpose.
Action in Individual Level
Actions of mental wellbeing promotion needed at the individual level are intended to provide resources and support for individuals to make them able in maintaining their wellbeing. Moreover, certain measures in addressing mental health at work include providing a clear job description, modifying workload that fits an individual, giving psychological counseling and support, and providing training for certain aspects like stress management, care management, and time management.
Frameworks for mental health in the workplace nowadays don’t only focus on the prevention and management of mental illness, but it also covers the more comprehensive approach, such as taking concern on mental health & wellbeing promotion and enhancing the organizational function to provide preventive measures.