New York, NY – As Mental Health Awareness Month kicks off, a new survey reveals that companies are increasingly focused on the mental health of their workers: The availability of organizational programs to support employee well-being increased 22 percent in just the last year. But is it enough? Half of workers still report their mental health has deteriorated since the start of the pandemic, with 58 percent citing increased work hours or workload as taking the greatest toll. 84 percent of employees report they can’t stop thinking about work.
Conducted by The Conference Board, the survey also highlights important worker disparities for HR executives to consider: Gender, generation, seniority level, and even work location can factor into mental health concerns. For example, while one third of workers overall worry about the impact of workplace bias and microaggressions on their mental health, these concerns are even greater for women and individual contributors.
The latest workforce survey from The Conference Board captured the thoughts of more than 1,100 individuals—predominantly professional/office workers—from April 11-25. Respondents weighed in on mental health, work-life boundaries, management, and more.
Key findings include:
The availability of policies and programs to support employee well-being have significantly increased in the last year, but less than half of respondents find them helpful.
- 86 percent of organizations had formal policies like paid time off, parental leave, and flexibility to support well-being, up from 65 percent in April 2021. These policies were the most helpful programs to support well-being (43 percent).
- 88 percent of organizations offered programs that support emotional well-being (e.g., mental health resources, Employee Assistance Programs)—up from 66 percent in April 2021—but only 29 percent of respondents found them helpful.
- Activities for social wellness and belonging (e.g., celebrations, retreats, virtual coffee hours) were the second-most helpful programs (37 percent) but were only available at 67 percent of organizations.
Most workers don’t think their manager is adequately addressing their mental health concerns.
- Only 38 percent of respondents feel their mental health concerns were adequately addressed by their manager, a decrease from 47 percent in December 2021.
- 72 percent agree that their manager is compassionate and empathetic.
- More Millennials (83 percent) think this about their manager than do Gen X and Baby Boomers at 73 and 68 percent, respectively.
- 82 percent would like their organization to offer training to managers on how to address sensitive mental health issues.
Workers are less comfortable speaking about their mental health at work than one year ago.
- 52 percent agree to some extent that they can discuss mental health at work without negative consequences, a decrease from 63 percent just one year ago.
- 27 percent are still uncomfortable speaking about their mental health at work.
- 63 percent of CEOs are comfortable speaking about their mental health, compared to 49 percent of individual contributors.
Despite the increase in resources, mental health is not improving.
- Half of workers (50 percent) still report their mental health has deteriorated since the start of the pandemic, comparable to previous surveys.
“The increased focus on mental health and well-being in the workplace may be one of the pandemic’s lasting legacies,” said Rebecca Ray, Ph.D. Executive Vice President, Human Capital, The Conference Board. “In just the last year, organizations offering programs to support emotional well-being increased 22 percent. But this survey reveals that more can and should be done to address mental health. That starts by addressing the disconnect between the support organizations offer, and what workers actually find helpful.”
Despite growing evidence that new approaches and training for both employees and managers can help well-being, they are offered much less often.
- Virtual therapeutic platforms, meditation, or relaxation subscriptions to support mental health and reduce anxiety/stress were offered at only 53 percent of organizations.
- Training to recognize the signs of mental health concerns and how to seek support for self and others was offered at 50 percent of organizations.
- Despite the benefits of building resilience on well-being, less than half of organizations offer training to do so (45 percent), and only 14 percent of respondents use this training when available.
“As workers continue to struggle with their well-being, organizations should consider embracing new and innovative solutions to support them,” said Dr. Srini Pillay, co-founder and Chief Medical Officer at Reulay, Inc. and former head of the Outpatient Anxiety Disorders Program at Harvard Medical School’s McLean Hospital. “Underutilized programs like virtual therapeutic platforms and training to build resilience can offer new ways to both reduce stress and increase productivity.”
Employees say their growing workload is worsening their mental health.
- 58 percent say increased work hours or workload impact their mental health to a large/great extent.
- More women and more Millennials report this than do their gender or generational cohorts.
A growing workload takes a bigger mental toll on remote workers.
- Increased hours/workload has a greater impact on the mental health of remote workers (61 percent) than those in the physical workplace (44 percent).
Most employees can’t stop thinking about work.
- 84 percent say they often or always think about work outside of work hours.
- 26 percent of survey respondents always think about work.
- Work location (remote, hybrid, or in the physical workplace) had no effect.
Stricter boundaries between work and personal life are more important to the mental health of remote workers.
- 44 percent of remote workers report this has a large/great impact on their mental health, compared to only 30 percent of workers in the physical workplace.
Workers say flexibility will help them set work-life boundaries.
- 76 percent of respondents say flexibility to work during their peak productivity hours is very or extremely effective in helping them maintain work-life boundaries. Women and Millennials value this flexibility more than men, Gen X, and Baby Boomers.
- Training managers to promote a healthy work-life balance was second-most effective, with 58 percent saying it was very or extremely effective. Women and Millennials find this training more effective than men, Gen X, and Baby Boomers.
- 51 percent of workers said providing boundaries for after-hours communication to help employees disconnect at the end of the day was very or extremely effective. Women and Millennials find these boundaries more helpful than men, Gen X, and Baby Boomers.
- Mandating the use of vacation time and not allowing rollover was least effective, with 30 percent saying it is not at all effective.
More trust from management would improve employee mental health.
- 61 percent of respondents indicated that greater trust from management would impact their mental health to a large/great extent—the top response.
- This holds true across genders, generations, level, and work location.
Workplace bias and microaggressions impact mental health.
- 33 percent of workers say workplace bias and microaggressions have a large/great impact on their mental health.
- Women (37 percent) report workplace bias and microaggressions hurt their mental health more than men (25 percent).
- 38 percent of individual contributors report workplace bias and microaggressions hurt their mental health—more than any other level of worker.
There are gender and generational disparities in the desire for more evenly distributed work.
- Women and Millennials think redistributing work more evenly would help them to establish work-life boundaries more so than men, Gen X, and Baby Boomers.
There is a disconnect between CEOs and individual contributors about effective ways to set work-life boundaries.
- Individual contributors (79 percent) value the flexibility to work during their peak productivity hours more than CEOs (68 percent).
- But CEOs (74 percent) find training for managers to promote a healthy work-life balance more effective than do individual contributors (59 percent).
- CEOs (54 percent) also think promoting fun and creativity in the workplace through regular teamwork activities is much more effective than do individual contributors at 40 percent.
An increased connection to mission and purpose matters significantly less to the mental health of workers than CEOs think.
- 78 percent of CEOs say an increased connection to mission and purpose would impact their mental health to a large/great extent.
Only 44 percent of individual contributors said the same.
- In fact, one in four respondents say it has little or no impact at all.
Source: The Conference Board