Recent research from the SHRM Foundation has revealed big gaps in how different generations experience the workplace in terms of mental health. Generation Z and millennial workers struggle more than baby boomers, Generation X and traditionalists, according to the research arm of the Society for Human Resource Management.
In its survey of 1,000 workers conducted in late March, the organization found that 1 in 3 employees said their job had a negative impact on their mental health over the past six months. Thirty percent of respondents said their job made them feel overwhelmed, and 29% said it made them feel anxious at least once per week.
When broken down by generation, the foundation found that younger workers were hardest hit. Twenty-seven percent of Gen Z reported feeling depressed by their job at least once per week in the last six months, compared with 18% of millennials, 14% of Gen Xers and 7% of baby boomers and traditionalists.
Gen Z and millennials were also more likely to report feeling overwhelmed by work at 42% and 36%, respectively, compared with 20% of baby boomers and traditionalists. Gen Z and millennial workers reported higher levels of loneliness and disengagement as well.
“An employer’s role in addressing employees’ mental health as it relates to the workplace has obviously become increasingly important,” Wendi Safstrom, president of the SHRM Foundation, said in a press release on the findings sent to HR Dive. “Finding, communicating and providing access to the benefits and support that reflect the needs of your employees, especially in a multigenerational workplace, is key.”
More employers over the past few years have turned their attention to their mental health offerings, with mixed results. A recent report by OneMedical found that only about 1 in 5 workers accessed their mental healthcare benefits, with workers listing cost, embarrassment and lack of time as key reasons they skipped out on such care.
Yet workers have also emphasized the importance of such benefits, arguably sending mixed signals to employers. Employees specifically have cited things that promote wellness — like gym memberships, monthly wellness stipends and yoga memberships — as benefits they would likely take advantage of.
Younger members of Gen Z seem well-aware of the state of their mental health and are showing signs of a proactive response; in a recent survey of the class of 2023, almost all respondents said employers should offer mental and emotional health benefits and more than one-third said they’re prioritizing employers that do so in their job search.