What Leaders Get Wrong About Mental Health

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After nearly two years of a global pandemic and its long list of negative side effects, our collective mental health has never been more fragile. McKinsey recently surveyed 5,000 Americans and found 37% of them were diagnosed with mental health problems or sought treatment for their mental health in 2021. With the uncertainty surrounding the Omicron variant, people around the world suffer from what seems like an endless cycle of anxiety, depression and loss, not just for the millions who have lost their lives to the disease, but for the carefree way we used to live our lives.

One of the few silver linings of this devastating moment is the marked progress in de-stigmatizing mental health. In the process of wreaking havoc on our lives, COVID has catalyzed conversations about the importance of providing mental health support. our recent study conducted by Forrester Consulting uncovered many encouraging findings, including that 85% of C-level and HR leaders believe that mental health is not just about mental illness, but something that all employees have.

However, one statistic is less encouraging: More than half (54%) of C-suite leaders think mental health benefits weren’t available to employees in the past and shouldn’t be a priority in management. present. This cohort of leaders is in for a rude awakening.

The tide has turned

It is unequivocal. Mentions of mental health and burnout in Glassdoor Reviews more than doubled during the pandemic and a recent study found that the majority of knowledge workers, 69% of those who work remotely and 61% of those who work in an office, believe that employee mental health is a shared responsibility between employees and their employer. This expectation is quickly becoming up for grabs, especially among the younger generations. In fact, according to our research, 86% of 18-29 year olds say they are more likely to stay with a company that provides them with high-quality resources to take care of their mental health. In the midst of the “Great Resignation” and with the war for talent raging red-hot, this is a stat that cannot be ignored.

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Gen-Z standards

Gen Z adults, those between the ages of 18 and 23, reported the highest levels of stress compared to other generations and were the age group most likely to report symptoms of depression, according to the American Psychological Association’s 2020 Stress in America Survey. As Generation Z will represent 82 million people by 2026 and will soon make up a large and growing portion of the modern workforce, their needs and standards for mental health support should shape those of leadership. Our research found that their bar is getting higher, with 41% of 18-29 year olds believing mental health benefits will become a legal requirement for all employers within five years.

Yet despite that prediction about the future, many today are still hesitant to share their concerns with their employers. TO Deloitte Report 2021 found that only 4 in 10 Gen Z workers bring up mental health issues with their managers, indicating a lasting stigma that likely results from leaders’ tendency to cling to the standards of the past.

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The right side of history.

It’s not uncommon for older generations to refer to “kids these days” as entitled or selfish, but considering Gen Z’s lifelong familiarity with digital disruption, we can learn a lot from them. And since this generation will drive the future of business, we should learn from them as much as they learn from us.

Each generation is defined by the major events that took place during its lifetime and after. Growing up in a post-9/11 world with cultural influences like Black Lives Matter and now a global pandemic, Gen Z has learned to adapt to disruption with agility. Case in point, remote work. Gen Z has been quick to embrace the trend fueled by the pandemic, but with the caveat that work must also incorporate flexibility, autonomy and a focus on wellness. And frankly, these caveats make for better workers.

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Our research found that 67% of C-level leaders think mental health benefits would make employees more productive, and 62% of managers and employees agree. With this in mind, along with the Great Renunciation, which remains in full force under new Data from the Department of Labor Showing Americans quitting or changing jobs in near-record numbers, offering mental health support to employees is a no-brainer.

From baby boomers to Generation Z, each generation of employees has introduced new standards to the workplace. As leaders, it is our responsibility to adapt, rather than listen, to get things back to the way they were.

Related: 20 secrets to live a happier life


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