The Covid-19 pandemic has led to various aspects of professional life being highly detrimental to mental health. Professional loneliness, isolation, increased stress and burn-out have all been symptoms of the pandemic, and mental health has seen widespread deterioration despite many companies taking steps to assist employees with their mental wellness.

In order to readjust their strategies for mental wellness, companies must fundamentally rebuild their understanding of mental health as it functions in the workplace. Studies, such as the one by Greenwood and Anas, can be very helpful in this regard.

Greenwood and Anas launched a large scale study of mental health in the workplace— and recently published an article about their findings in the Harvard Business Review.¹ The authors compared results from two survey studies completed between October 2019 and October 2021. Here are some of the trends found by the authors:

  1. Statistically, more employees are leaving their jobs for mental health reasons— including those caused by workplace factors like overloading and unsustainable work. From 2019 to 2021, the number of millennials leaving their job (both voluntarily and involuntarily) for mental health reasons rose from 50% to 68%. Gen-Z has seen a rise from 75% to 81%.
  2. Mental health deterioration is also very visible in currently employed employees, with an almost 30% increase in respondents who reported at least one symptom of a mental health condition between 2019 and 2021 (rising from 51% to 76%). While the research clearly shows that mental health challenges affect the majority of employees, it also uncovered that C-level and executives are actually more likely than others to report at least one mental health symptom.
  3. Demographics continue to play a strong role in workplace mental health, with younger workers and historically underrepresented groups struggling the most. Millennials and Gen Zers as well as LGBTQ and black respondents were all significantly more likely to experience mental health symptoms.
  4. Workplace factors continue to play a negative role. An overwhelming 84% of respondents reported at least one workplace factor that negatively impacted their mental health. The most common factor was emotionally draining (e.g., Stressful, overwhelming, boring or monotonous) work. That was closely followed by work-life balance. These conditions were worsened by the pandemic. Other workplace factors that notably worsened were poor communication problems and a low sense of connection.

However, the research also shows that companies are taking the issue more seriously. 54% of respondents believed that mental health was prioritised at their company compared to 41% in 2019. Companies offered more training for their managers to support their employees, with the result being that 47% of respondents believed that their managers were equipped to support them if they had a mental health condition or symptom. This was an improvement from the previous 39% recorded in 2019. That being said, the statistics show that the increased focus on mental health has not been able to divert the issue from its current detrimental course. Companies must be exposed to more knowledge, greater understanding and better guidelines.

It is for this reason that Knowledge Resources is proud to announce two initiatives to support companies to improve mental health in the workplace. Firstly, we are launching a new title “Improving Mental Health in the Workplace” which will have a virtual book launch on the 4th of November, 2021. The book covers the full spectrum of mental health and is set to become your encyclopaedia of mental health as it functions in the workplace. The book is edited by Navlika Ratangee, Managing Director, ICAS and other specialist contributors.

Additionally, a two-day conference on Mental Health and Wellness in the Workplace will be held on 4 and 5 November 2021. This conference covers practical aspects of organisation and business design as they pertain to mental health and wellness in the workplace— and tackles the issue of mental health using the collective brainpower of leading members of several industries.

By Wilhelm Crous, Managing Director, Knowledge Resources

¹  “It’s a New Era for Mental Health at Work” by Kelly Greenwood and Julia Anas – Harvard Business Review, October 04, 2021