5 Employee Mental Health Trends for HR Leaders and Executives

Calm’s 2024 Voice of the Workplace Report provides leaders with data, insights, and recommendations for improving employee mental health and well-being.

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The Calm Team

7 min read

Amid the nonstop turbulence of the past four years, employers have made great strides in supporting employee mental health. It’s not enough, Calm research shows.

Employer commitment to workforce mental health and well-being has never been stronger. More than half of organizations are making benefits decisions based primarily on employee feedback, for example. About two-thirds have enhanced their EAPs, and 4 of 10 have simplified health and benefits navigation

Yet the majority of employees (69%) aren’t feeling any better, according to Calm’s survey of more than 4,000 workers in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and India. In fact, 81% of employees said they’ve struggled with nervousness, anxiousness, and stress in the past month, and 68% said they’re having trouble falling asleep. Almost as many—about 60%—said their anxiety or sleep challenges are affecting their performance at work. 

Workplace challenges no longer represent the number one source of stress, as they did last year. But when asked to describe their workplaces, about half of respondents used negative words such as “toxic” and “tumultuous.” Clearly, there’s room for improvement.

Where do HR leaders go from here to improve employee mental health? 

As an HR/benefits leader, where do you go from here? That’s what Calm aims to answer in our 2024 Voice of the Workplace Report: Mental Health Trends for HR Leaders and Executives. In addition to our survey of 4,000+ workers, the report is based on a blind survey of more than 150 HR/benefits leaders conducted by EBN/Arizent and an analysis of Calm usage patterns of more than 4 million Calm subscribers. In the report, you’ll find a discussion of five employee mental health trends and five key recommendations to help you support your workforce more effectively this year.

Calm 2024 Voice of the Workplace Report

5 key workforce mental health trends and 5 recommendations for executives and HR leaders

Get the report
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Here’s a top-line summary of the employee mental health trends we uncovered:

1. Financial woes are the number one source of employee stress.

Inflation and the high cost of living are creating a lot of stress and anxiety for workers, especially those who spend a larger share of their pay on food, transportation, and housing. Nearly 60% of respondents said financial challenges are fueling anxiety and worries about money, and 15% said they’re having a tough time concentrating on work due to money-related stress. 

What’s more, 52% of workers are seeking a supplemental source of income, which could make their stress and lack of focus even worse. The good news is there are steps employers can take to help employees better manage their finances and their thoughts and feelings about money that are creating stress and anxiety.

2. Workplace technology is contributing to burnout.

Although AI feels threatening to nearly half (45%) of employees, it’s today’s standard workplace technology, not AI, that’s leading to stress and burnout. Smartphones, messaging apps, and instant access to the cloud from anywhere make it easy to connect to work anytime, anywhere. They also can make it hard to disconnect. 

Fifty-eight percent of workers say they’re always connected or available for work, and 41% say the constant pressure to be always available is hurting their mental health. About a third of workers feel tired from being constantly online for work.  

So, while you’ll need to be thoughtful about how you introduce AI into your workplace, you’ll also need to help employees establish healthier relationships with the productivity tools they already use every day.

3. Managers are the problem and the solution.

Most employees (65%) say their managers play a huge role—both positive and negative—in their mental health. Leading with empathy, for example, can have a significant positive impact on how employees are feeling. 

Yet only half of managers feel confident about having mental health conversations with employees, according to Calm research. What’s the number one concern holding them back? Fear of saying the wrong thing.

About a third of employees wish their managers would check-in with them regularly about their well-being, establish clear work/life boundaries, adjust workloads to support those boundaries, talk openly about their own mental health experiences, and model taking personal time off, among several other things.

Employers are starting to respond. About a third are training managers to be more mindful, to recognize mental distress, and to talk openly about mental health in the workplace.

4. Women need more mental health support for life stages.

Thirty-six of women respondents—nearly double the percentage of men—said their mental health worsened in the past year. The lack of employer support for women in certain stages of life may be the reason. Ninety percent of women said family planning challenges or experiences such as infertility, miscarriage, and menopause can affect their overall mental health and ability to be productive at work. Yet most women feel unsupported by their employers in these areas.  

Only 35% of respondents said their workplace is supportive of women’s reproductive health (pregnancy, fertility, abortion), and only 25% said it’s supportive of menopause. Menopause is emerging as a major challenge for female employees. It’s also one of the topics women are least likely to discuss at work. 

While employers have increasingly offered family-forming benefits, including financial support for aspiring parents pursuing in vitro fertilization, adoption, and surrogacy, they can do more to support the mental health of women throughout all life stages. Fortunately, employers are making supporting women’s mental health related to pregnancy and menopause one of their top benefits priorities in the next two years.  

5. Gen Z, struggling the most, is leading the charge for change.

A Gen Z mental health epidemic is brewing. Not only are Gen Z employees stressed about the cost of living, they’re also struggling with loneliness and career uncertainty. Three-quarters of Gen Zers feel down or depressed, compared to about half of Gen Xers and baby boomers. From 2021 to 2023, searches for “loneliness” on the Calm app more than doubled. 

It’s not all bleak: Gen Z is leading the charge to change workplaces for the better and evolve workplace benefits. While the general population is campaigning most for cost-of-living/inflation adjustments to wages, Gen Zers are advocating most for increased coverage for mental health and/or fertility care. Gen Zers are also pushing for more flexibility in when and where they get their work done.

Employers will need to pay special attention to the needs of Gen Z and harness their energy to come up with creative solutions to their challenges.

Accelerate your progress in improving workforce mental health

Despite your hard work to improve employee mental health, more needs to be done. While many employers have embraced continuous listening and are responding to employee feedback, there’s still a gap between employees’ needs and employer support for their mental well-being. Filling that gap—helping employees live healthier, happier lives—will require evolving both benefits and workplace culture. So that you can learn more about the trends outlined here and the practical steps you can take to address them, we invite you to download the full report.

For more information on how Calm can help you build a happier, healthier workforce, connect with a Calm specialist today

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