- Mental health is on the minds of many employers in 2022, and perhaps for good reason: more than half of full-time U.S. workers in a January Qualtrics survey said their job was the main source of their mental health challenges.
- A strong majority, 87%, of employees wanted to be in control of their schedules, and 36% said flexibility to work whenever and wherever would impact their mental health positively, but the definition of flexible work is not universally agreed upon, Qualtrics said. For example, 41% of respondents would prioritize the ability to choose which hours of the day they work, while 25% would prioritize which days they work and 14% would prioritize location.
- Segmentation is another consideration: 69% of employees said the lines between work and life had become increasingly blurred, per Qualtrics. But workers also may be hesitant to take advantage of flexibility options at all. More than half of respondents said they thought their career advancement or pay would suffer if they did so.
The firm's findings may have particular significance due to the fact that many employers have turned to flexibility to address mental health issues brought on by the pandemic.
That consideration dates back to the pandemic's earliest stages. A 2020 FlexJobs survey of employees found that 48% of those with access to flexible work options rated their work-life balance positively, compared to 36% of those without such options. More than half of those with such options also said they had the emotional support they needed to manage stress and were able to change the stressful aspects of their work.
Employers responded with this sentiment in mind. By August 2020, a Mercer survey of U.S. respondents found 83% said their companies were considering implementing flexible work to an extent greater than they had prior to the pandemic. Employees who served as caregivers were a particular consideration for these options amid school and care center closures.
But those moves also have to account for the potential drawbacks of flexible work models like remote work. Large shares of remote workers have had a negative response to the format during the pandemic, citing feelings of loneliness and isolation as well as a loss of team connectivity. Qualtrics, meanwhile, found that 20% of remote workers started their days earlier, 18% took fewer sick days and 17% reported working more overall.
Even if employers have embraced flexibility, that does not necessarily mean they have a comprehensive plan to address mental health. Indeed, a recent Willis Towers Watson survey found that nearly half of 322 employer respondents had not yet formally articulated a well-being strategy for their workforces as of October 2021.
Flexibility alone is not a complete response to mental issues either. Employees frequently cite barriers to care such as cost and accessibility. Employers may be able to address at least some of these barriers by implementing funding measures, as HR technology vendor Phenom did when it announced a $1,000 benefit for employees to put toward mental health, or by increasing the number of complementary mental health visits under an employee assistance program.