If the call to action to put mental wellbeing on the workplace agenda wasn’t loud enough pre-pandemic, then it’s now on red alert. It’s no secret that the past couple of years has caused huge amounts of stress and anxiety across all workplaces. While mental health rates increased across all generations during the pandemic, it’s millennials (and Gen Z) who took the hardest hit.
And while gritting teeth, riding the storm, and keeping positive mindsets has been the approach, the pain is still being felt. So much so, that younger gens are now demanding workplaces do something about it. Why? Because mental health cannot be separated from workplaces. And given we spend 1/3 of our lives at work, it means workplaces are both part of the problem AND the solution.
Whether or not employees return to a physical office, or remain remote, mental health issues can’t be left at the door. We’ve already seen the lines become blurred between personal and professional lives due to working from home, but a return to the physical office doesn’t mean it gets better. In fact, for many, this just proves an additional challenge.
And when it comes to the mental health needs of younger gens, workplaces need to understand that they are different from those of other gens. Not only because of different values but because of environmental, political, and socio-economic factors influencing mental health today, than before.
One of the most pressing challenges being faced right now is burnout.
This may seem strange given the pandemic placed most of our lives on hold, but for a generation who were already struggling with issues impacting mental health – think debt, financial challenges, job uncertainty, social media, societal pressures – for workplaces, the current demands have become all that more real. And the reasons? First, the inability to separate personal and professional lives – leading employees to be constantly “on”. This hasn’t fared well for millennials who were already high risk. Second, many a workplace didn’t cope well with the change – leaving employees with little, or no support. This has left many people questioning their workplace. Third, the opportunity came to a halt – leaving many people bored, irritated, and feeling “stuck”.
Why does all this matter? Because of the cost to workplaces.
In addition to the fact that millennials are the current and future leaders and getting it right matters (which should be enough to motivate workplaces), there are other considerations.
Rises in absenteeism which cost business. Every workplace knows that each day an employee isn’t in the office, it costs. There are costs associated with declines in performance and productivity and increases in workload for others; costs associated with financial benefits paid to the employee; even costs to general morale and culture.
Risk to the retention of talent when culture isn’t transparent. Surveys continue to find that despite conversations occurring, something isn’t quite working from a cultural point of view. Did you know that during the pandemic, employees were identifying different reasons for absenteeism, because of the perception of the stigma that exists around mental health in the office?
This means that a workplace where employees don’t feel supported leads to a culture of distrust, disengagement, and contempt. And for younger gens who value inclusive, transparent cultures, this doesn’t bide well for retention or recruitment.
What do we do about it?
When it comes to solutions, millennials and Gen-Z can help. In fact, for sustainable change to occur, it should be encouraged. Because they don’t just understand the needs and criticality of addressing this but are willing to do something about it. And part of this involves improving generational collaboration.
Working together on solutions includes:
Mental health policies: Workplaces have a responsibility to create a work environment that supports employees’ mental health and allows them to thrive. Build it into your strategy or policies to make sure it is on the agenda.
Changing attitude: There was a time when mental health wasn’t spoken about and older generations “simply got on with it.” This isn’t how it is today. We are in an era where mental health is spoken about and there are systems and services to help. The old ways of being, simply don’t stand up anymore.
Encourage inclusive cultures: Fostering open and inclusive workplaces where people feel comfortable and supported in speaking up about mental health challenges is critical. Start small (such as putting it onto a workplace meeting agenda) if needed.
Set up support systems: Whether these are in-house or through external service providers, having support systems available is critical. This includes making sure employees know who is available to contact, and when.
Interested to find out more?
Come and join Millennial Mental Wellbeing on Monday May 2, 2022 for an evening of education, inspiration, and empowerment. Join young professionals, modern-thinking business leaders, and guest speakers who will discuss the mental health challenges facing young professionals today and the tools needed to support employees and leaders in the workforce.
To register for this free event go to: https://mmw2021.wixsite.com/2nd-may