Mental Health at Work in 2023; How Are Employers Helping?

Mental health in the workplace is a complex and multifaceted issue. From lockdowns and pandemic panic to navigating a cost of living crisis and a climate of political instability, it’s not surprising that an increasingly worrisome number of people – especially younger professionals –  are struggling with their mental wellbeing, with over half of them experiencing moderate to severe anxiety (44%) and depression (46%).

Just last year, the Cigna 360 Global Well-Being Survey 2022 already classified Gen Z (born between 1997- 2013) as the most burnt-out generation, closely followed by their slightly older pals, Millennials (1981-1996). But what are the reasons for why they struggling more, and what are companies doing to help their staff?

Work burnout: a generational issue?

Part of the complexity of managing mental health at work derives from the interplay of extrinsic and intrinsic factors. The intricacy of individual experiences paired with a high-stress environment like the “permacrisis” of the last few years naturally results in different reactions from different people, who ultimately will have varying needs.

The Cigna International Health’s survey shared that almost 12,000 workers around the world, 91% of 18-to-24-year-olds report being stressed – compared to 84% on average. The combination of professional stress and economic precarity is the unfortunate reality of the majority of the working population, with a staggering 98% presenting burnout symptoms, and 23% of them describing those as “unmanageable”.

As the youngest generation to enter the workforce, it’s not surprising that they’re the most affected by inflation, as well as being more sensitive to poor work experience and hostile work environments. 

How do we view mental health in 2023?

This of course does not mean other generations are immune to struggling. According to HR Magazine, over 35% of workers aged 16 to 65 struggle from moderate to severe levels with their mental health. Despite the huge progress made in raising awareness about mental health at work, 87% of workers still don’t feel comfortable admitting to their employers that they are struggling.

Why do employers care, and how can they help?

In our previous blog about workplace stress, we covered some of the causes of mental struggle at work, including poor work-life balance, heavy workload, and negative workplace culture.

For employers, poor mental health among employees can lead to decreased productivity, absenteeism, and higher turnover rates. Thankfully, most companies have recognised the importance of taking active steps to support their employees and are recognising that taking proactive steps in supporting their staff’s mental health is more effective and cost-efficient than reacting to issues as they arise. From access to counselling and therapy to flexible work arrangements, there are numerous ways employers can promote a culture of openness and understanding around mental health at work.

Prevention is better than cure

Another shift in managing mental health in the workplace is a bigger focus on prevention and early intervention. This includes:

  • Promoting healthy work-life balance
  • Offering stress management training
  • Providing training for managers to identify and support employees who may be struggling with mental health issues
  • Training mental health first aiders within the business
  • Offering access to other benefits such as gym memberships and access to mental health and meditation apps that can help mood and symptom tracking, and even provide personalised recommendations for self-care

Furthermore, the increased use of technology to support mental health is an important trend. Digital tools such as apps, chatbots and online support groups – especially those that can offer a level of anonymity – can help those still reluctant to speak up to still help if needed.

Pete Johnson, Commercial Director at Platfform Wellbeing (a non-profit organisation for mental health and social change) explains the importance of going beyond isolated initiatives and committing to a wider effort to promote a healthy company attitude towards mental health at work:

“It’s about looking closely within your business and understanding that it could require a complete culture shift and a structure that supports relational leadership. When employees can see that all levels of management (including the C suite) are practising a compassionate leadership style, they can then in turn develop confidence and reassurance to open up. This isn’t about being soft as leaders, but being brave in conversation.”

Pete Johnson, Commercial Director, Platfform wellbeing

Navigating your help system: how to ask for support, and how to provide it

If you’re an employee struggling with stress, and have a diagnosed or suspected mental health problem, you might be feeling unsure about talking to your employer about it.

If you do decide to speak to your employer, may be consider the following points:

  • How and when to do it: set up a meeting with the person you’re speaking to. If helpful, prepare some notes or have one from your doctor to help explain your situation.
  • How much information you want to give: opening up is already a big step, so if it doesn’t feel right, don’t feel like you need to share personal details. Just explain how it is or can affect your job. Beyond being the right thing, your employer has a duty of care to support you.
  • Who you want to share it with: you don’t have to tell your colleagues or even your manager. HR are usually the right people to go to first, as well as the designated mental health first aiders if you have some.

If you’re an employer or the go-to contact for your team or several employees, it’s important to understand that the responsibility required to support someone, goes hand in hand with guiding them towards the appropriate help:

As Pete from Platfform Wellbeing explains:

“Trust is critical and if you can get that supportive culture pitched correctly, those conversations can happen with anyone; it is so important to not just sit on issues but to address them as soon as possible. As employers, we shouldn’t think we are there to ‘fix’ a person, but more to gently support them towards their own sustainable solution.”

Pete Johnson, Commercial Director, Platfform

Sources of help

Here are some useful links for anyone who may need support or for employers needing help with their wellbeing strategy:

More resources on mental health and wellbeing here:

  • Cruse Bereavement Care (provides bereavement advice and support)
  • Relate (offers relationship advice and counselling)
  • Victim Support (provides victims and witnesses of crime with help and support)
  • Silvercloud (online course that offers support for anxiety, depression and more, based on cognitive behavioural therapy)
  • Beat eating disorders helpline (offers a supportive environment to talk about eating disorders and how to get help. You can also call 0808 801 0677)
  • Mind active monitoring (six weeks guided self-help for, anxiety, depression, self-esteem, and more)
  • ACTivate your Life (online video course that shares practical ways to cope with thoughts and feelings causing distress and help live life with more confidence)
  • Young person’s mental health toolkit, including a guide on how to prepare to talk with a GP

Helpful charities:

More information on Platfform Wellbeing can be found here and details of their award winning wellbeing at work training, ‘Platfform Wellbeing’ can be found here

To find out how we can work with you, please drop us a line