Given everything we’ve seen in 2020, this probably shouldn’t surprise anyone. Young people who have been paying attention to what is happening to their peers as they head into the workplace, and their parents as they struggle with raising children while working from home, are interested in seeing more on the mental health front from…
Or as I would put it, if you don’t even know my wife’s name, or can’t remember that I don’t have kids, maybe start there before you ask about my mental health, cool?
Suddenly asking someone you barely know anything about outside of work about mental health, will be a shock, and quite frankly, will seem threatening more than it seems supportive. As in, “why is my boss asking about this? Does she think I’m not doing my job, am I about to get fired?”
I’m assuming that’s not how you want them to feel, so be thoughtful about how you bring these subjects up. By all means, work up to it, and work up toward helping your reports feel comfortable, but do it in a way that actually works, not in a way that makes them feel less safe.
I think this is interesting in a couple of different ways. Clearly, workers are putting a much higher value on their own mental health, and companies that don’t get that, and support it, are going to end up having quite a bit of turnover.
But, the other thing that I wanted to think more about was what those specific reasons say about the mental health of Millennial and Gen Z workers. They seem to be dealing with a lot of stress around finances, and having that stress impact their mental health. Is that new? Or is it more likely that Gen X and Boomers have had those same stresses, but didn’t really identify them as mental health issues, like anxiety.
I think there’s something to that. Not to start talking about how things were “back in my day”, but I don’t recall anyone talking about anxiety in the same way we talk about it now. I suspect that many of us had anxiety around finances, we just didn’t call it that, and our solution to that anxiety was, of course, to work harder and longer.
And guess what? The next generations watched us do that, especially the Baby Boomers, and realized that it doesn’t actually work. Our mental health has sucked, for years, and we just didn’t admit it. They are willing to talk about it, and look for work that fits with lessening stress, especially stress that is related to finances.
Now, you would think that if they had more stress around finances, they would also just “work harder and longer”, but that assumes that the relationship between employers and employees is the same as it was 25-30 years ago, and it’s just not. Companies come and go now overnight. They run out to hire when things are growing, and rush to fire when things are not growing. Whole industries barely exist anymore. None of us live in the same work world that we grew up in any more.
I could see this being true, because we know there is a lot of stigma surrounding mental health issues in the workplace:
“New research from recruitment agency Hays claims that nearly a quarter (24 percent) of those who have or have experienced a mental health condition feel they do not have equal access to the same career progression opportunities as other colleagues. Similarly, 12 percent of those who have had or experienced mental ill health said they felt this had led to their chances of being selected for a job being lowered.”
You would think, after everything we’ve been through this year with COVID-19, racial justice issues, a dysfunctional election, and natural disasters, maybe, just maybe this wouldn’t still be the case, but I’m afraid for many workers, this is totally true: “In my opinion, productivity is given undue importance, while burnout is largely ignored in the…
The article below does a really deep dive into what is available, and where we are lacking, when it comes to mental health support for employees. I think this really sums it up though: “Stigma, access and funding were the biggest hurdles to expanding mental health care, Swayze said. While studies show millennials were more…