Gen Z and Mental Health at Work
By 2030 Gen Z is projected to be 30% of the labor force. (US Census) Born in 1996 and after, the oldest of these workers will be 34 in 2030.
Employers are looking at how to attract Gen Z workers, but they should be taking a serious look at how they plan to retain these employees.
As employers look at the skills of Gen Z, it is undeniable how technologically inclined that they are. Intuitive technology in the workplace will not be the only expectation of the Gen Z workforce. A study done by Monster, (when Gen Z first entered the labor force) shows that of the top three “must haves” for their first job, the number one response was health insurance. This has not changed in the few years they have been employed.
It is no wonder why Generation Z cares about health. Many were impressionable kids when the 2008 recession occurred. Some kids watching their parents lose their jobs, health insurance, and savings. (Newsweek) They grew up hearing the struggles of millennials, and were in their early teens when they were witnessing the country debating over the Affordable Care Act, and eventually passing historic health care legislation.
Managing Stress & Mental Health
Managing stress and mental health is an important health and wellness concern for Gen Z. (FITT) Employer health and wellness plans that only focus on physical health will fall short in filling the needs of Gen Z. The future generation of workers are concerned with their mental health and it is redefining how we see inclusion and diversity in the workplace.
Fifty percent of Millennials and 75% of Gen Zers have left roles in the past for mental health reasons, both voluntarily and involuntarily. (Harvard Review) This is expensive for employers who pay to train these young workers in hopes their productivity levels will rise after their learning curve. Strategic plans and well thought out efforts will be essential for retaining employees and keeping them productive.
Generation Z is more likely to report mental health concerns and with a 52% of Gen Z diagnosed with mental health issues companies will face lower productivity and higher turnover if they do not have a strategic well thought out plan in place to provide support for their employees. (APA)
As employers take a serious review of their mental health support systems, they should consider the reasons why employees are reluctant to discuss stress with their employers.
Organizations will need to examine their mental health company culture and begin to put into place procedures to alleviate current employees fears of discussing stress as being interpreted as a lack of interest or as an unwillingness to do the activity, possibly affecting their promotion opportunities. (ADAA)
If you were to enter an office of 20 people 4 of those people are currently living with a mental health condition. With 1 in 5 being the current rate and half of the Gen Z population diagnosed with a mental health issue we can expect to see some increases in the average number of workers dealing with mental health issues at work. (NAMI)
The good news is that for every US $1 put into scaled up treatment for common mental disorders, there is a return of US $4 in improved health and productivity. (WHO)
Walgreens and the National Council for Behavioral Health has a unique collaboration providing Walgreens employees with mental health first aid training for employees within Walgreens’ human resources department. Mental health literacy, understanding risk factors and warning signs for mental health and addiction concerns and strategies for how to help someone in both crisis and other situations are addressed. (Walgreens)
Employee Assistance Programs (EAP)
Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) are paid for by employers and comprised of different services that help employees with various stressful issues employees may face such as marital, financial, substance abuse and mental health concerns. They are designed to help keep employees productive at work and they should be administered through a third party, allowing the employee to feel comfortable speaking about issues with an impartial person and without repercussions to their jobs or social lives. No specific employee information is shared with the employer. Employees are often given a phone number to call to get immediate assistance and referrals to where they can receive guidance.
Smaller businesses with fewer than 25 employees are less likely to offer an EAP for various reasons such as cost, or they may just be unaware of EAP programs, and how to go about getting them setup. (FSB)
With the inclination of Gen Z to use technology, telemedicine and applications that are specifically designed for recognizing and improving mental health issues will become an efficient tool for employers to incorporate into their wellness programs. Many companies are even offering employee’s incentives to utilize wellness tools. Telemedicine and applications available on employees phones allow them to seek help at a time that is convenient for them and when they feel comfortable. These tools are a natural fit for Gen Z and are becoming more accessible and efficient for small businesses.
When we consider how much of our time is spent at work, we must recognize the importance of mental health and its effects on our productivity levels in the workplace. The employee benefits of a workplace could make all the difference between keeping Gen Z workers employed and productive versus having significantly high turnover and constantly having to hire and fire.