Forbes | Mark Perna
These days, Millennials are being called the “anxious generation.” And according to a recent survey by Business Insider, they’re also “lonely, burned out and depressed.” Half of Millennials, along with 75% of Gen-Zers, have left a job for mental health reasons. Moreover, burnout—now classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as an occupational phenomenon—is affecting a wide swath of younger workers as they deal with increasing workloads and on-the-job stress, not to mention the rise in 24/7 workplace connectivity.
Additionally, as the first generation to grow up with the Internet and social media, Millennials in particular are battling unique pressures and insecurities. As one mental health blogger observes, “The world is at Millennials’ fingertips, but they also feel its immense weight.”
But there’s good news, too. Millennials aren’t just the anxious generation. They’re also the “therapy generation”—unafraid to confront their mental health struggles and seek help.
According to Zapier’s recent Digital Natives Report, more than three-quarters of Millennials (78%) and Gen-Zers (77%) say that the ability to discuss mental health openly at work is important to them. What’s more, the vast majority (85% and 91%, respectively) think that employers should have a mental health policy in place. All to say, when it comes to mental health, younger workers want more than talk—they want action.
Proactive and purposeful
In addition to hurting workers’ well-being, mental health issues like anxiety, depression and addiction also take a major toll on a company’s bottom line. But here’s more good news: A recent WHO-led workplace study estimates that for every $1 put into scaled-up treatment for common mental disorders, there is a return of $4 in improved health and productivity.
To realize those benefits, and to attract and retain mental-health-minded Millennials and Gen-Zers, employers must act proactively and purposefully. Here are five ways to do it at your company.
- Training. Managers can make a big difference when a worker may be struggling with a serious mental health issue. First, however, they must be trained to recognize the warning signs and to encourage and even assist the employee in seeking help from a qualified professional.
- Self-assessment. Make employees aware of free self-assessment tools available at sites such as Psycom.net. Additionally, partner with a qualified mental health professional or practice to administer free or subsidized clinical screenings and, when appropriate, provide direct feedback and referrals.
- Benefits. Today, 80% of workers say they’d prefer more benefits over more money—making a health insurance plan that includes mental health treatment a major perk. This should include low out-of-pocket costs for related prescriptions and counseling services.
- Respite. At Beehive, a Twin Cities-based strategic communication firm, employees can enjoy “InZone,” a quiet, dedicated space—shielded from wireless signals—to meditate, relax or simply unplug and recharge. Such areas are welcome oases for stressed-out workers in search of a mental time-out. Providing literature and programs on subjects such as mindfulness and mind-body exercises, like yoga or tai chi, can also be helpful.
- Self-care. At one time, taking a mental health day from work was considered a joke or just a figure of speech. Not anymore—and smart employers will take note. Workers should be encouraged, not discouraged, to take legitimate time off for the purpose of stress relief and self-care.
It’s time to promote workplace cultures that address mental health proactively and purposefully. Millennials know it. Gen-Zers know it. Now it’s up to the rest of us to know it.