The coronavirus pandemic has taken its toll on just about everyone in today’s workforce, but younger employees may be facing the greatest burden when it comes to stress.
Gen Z employees – those born starting in 1995 – were three times more likely than all other employees since the pandemic started to have sought professional help for stress, burnout or other mental health reasons, according to a new MetLife report. Millennials – those born between 1981 and 1995 – have also been hard hit.
It turns out that using virtual interactions instead of in-person communication has been a big part of the problem. The survey found that close to four in 10 workers blamed reduced in-person interaction with friends, family and co-workers for harming their mental health. Fifty-six percent of millennials said they felt the same way.
The biggest challenge of working from home, cited by 41%, is the isolation from co-workers. Distractions of the household is the next biggest challenge, cited by 34%. Other challenges include inadequate workspace (19%) and lack of office equipment (19%).
Some 47% of Gen Z employees dealing with stress and anxiety said that not being able to connect with co-workers in person as much as they used to played a significant role in their mental health issues. Overall, 34% of employees felt similarly.
According to the study, just one in 12 workers who reported not having good mental health in the wake of the pandemic have sought help. About 37% of respondents blamed a stigma relating to seeking treatment, and nearly one in 10 said they were concerned about discrimination from managers and colleagues.
Younger employees were most worried about the stigma, according to the report, with 48% of them reporting concerns. Nearly half of Black and Hispanic respondents were most likely to recognize employer stigma about seeking mental health help.
What makes a resilient employee in pandemic times? According to the survey, 51% pointed to wellness programs as helping, and 50% said mental health coverage made a difference. About 48% credited relaxation initiatives, and 47% said employee assistance programs helped them in their pursuit of wellness. About 45% said stress management programs helped them stay mentally well.
About 70% of employees said that financial stability also helped their mental health. Nearly half said their mental health stress stemmed from long-term savings, medical and other unrelated expenses and stock market volatility.
The responses are part of MetLife’s 18th annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study, which the insurer said has been updated with a new “Mental Health Deep Dive.” The report, conducted in July 2020, surveyed 1,000 employers with at least two employees and included interviews with some 2,000 full-time employees, ages 21 and older, at companies with two employees or more.
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