About a third of U.S. workers say their self-reported level of mental health is lower than six months ago, and 37% say their sense of belonging is lower, according to a May 30 report from The Conference Board.
Work burdens create some of the worst effects on employees’ mental health, the survey found. For instance, 48% of workers who reported lower mental health also worked more than 50 hours per week.
Workers also reported mental health challenges related to poor workplace communication, poor work-life balance and time spent in meetings.
“This survey reveals that many workers are really struggling with their mental health. This could be due to a combination of factors both inside and outside of the workplace, but the fact remains that it can have an outsized impact on work performance,” Rebecca Ray, executive vice president of human capital for The Conference Board, said in a statement.
“Workers need the ability to truly disconnect and reset, but many companies are now recognizing that this can be a major challenge when their colleagues are still working,” she said.
In a survey of 1,100 workers, nearly 70% who reported decreased mental health also reported decreased levels of engagement compared with six months ago. At the same time, most workers with lower engagement said they’re working harder than expected for their job and applying more effort than they did six months ago.
However, workers are less comfortable talking about their mental health challenges at work. About 38% said they don’t feel comfortable speaking to their manager about their mental health concerns — more than double the 18% who said that a year ago.
In addition, 50% of workers said they needed time off to address their mental health issues but didn’t explicitly request a mental health break. Instead, they took unofficial mental health days, used sick days or continued to work.
Workers said flexibility and work-life balance would help their mental health the most. More than half — 55% — said being able to take “no work” PTO days without guilt would be useful. This was the top response.
About half of workers also said a flexible or hybrid work schedule would be useful, as well as work-from-home and work-from-anywhere options. On top of that, 47% said training managers to promote a healthy work-life balance could improve work environments.
“Some businesses have opted for ‘no work’ days or weeks when everyone is off,” Ray said. “But letting your employees disconnect can simply mean ensuring everyone has an established backup and setting strict no contact policies for staff on vacation.”
Employee burnout continues to remain high this year, according to recent research, sparking conversations around reduced engagement, quiet quitting, and “bare minimum Mondays.” Depending on the workplace and job position, different options could help, such as restructuring total rewards, defining workload expectations and discussing whether the culture of work encourages time off, HR leaders told HR Dive.
Mental health benefits could help as well. In fact, many younger workers say they’re prioritizing companies that offer these benefits during their job search, according to a recent report. For current workers who have these benefits, leaders can also work to ensure their employees can actually access mental health services.