Benefits Strategy

Employee Wellness

Gen Zers and Millennials Expect More Employer Support for Mental Health

To promote workforce mental health and well-being, HR/benefits teams should make digital mental health tools and better sleep for everyone priorities.

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The Calm Team

5 min read

HR teams have a long list of priorities. Developing effective leaders and managers, helping the organization adapt to change, improving the employee experience, recruiting and retaining talent, and building the future of work.

A common thread runs through all these goals: workforce mental health and well-being. Effective leaders and managers must demonstrate empathy and mindfulness. Successful change management depends on employee resilience. To offer an exceptional employee experience, an organization must provide the right support to promote holistic employee health.

HR teams can advance their broader goals if they make headway on employee mental well-being. 

The key is not overlooking—and instead elevating—the mental health needs of a key workforce population: the youngest generations. 

When it comes to employee mental health and well-being, the needs and expectations of millennials (ages 26 to 41) and Gen Zers (ages 18 to 25) serve as a valuable guide. As natural disruptors, the youngest generations set the bar for a future of work built on a strong foundation of whole health.

Gen Zers and millennials are gaining influence 

Why is their viewpoint especially important? Not only are Gen Zers and millennials change-makers, but they’re also rapidly becoming the biggest population in the workforce—about 50% today and increasing to 65%+ by 2031. 

They’re also the group least likely to stay in a job for long. In 2022, the median tenure of 25-to-34-year-old employees was just 2.8 years. Today, 70% of Gen Zers and millennials say they’re considering leaving their jobs within the year—despite the tens of thousands of tech layoffs.

They expect employers to care about their mental health and well-being

More and more, building and sustaining a thriving organization depends on meeting the needs of the youngest generations of workers. Doing so begins with their number one expectation: well-being.

First and foremost, Gen Z and millennial workers want an employer who cares about their well-being, not just their physical health but also their mental and emotional health. 

The support young workers need and expect from employers  

At Calm, we dove deeper into the mental health needs and expectations of workers in all generations. We analyzed aggregate data patterns of 4 million+ Calm users and conducted a quantitative survey of 2,000+ 18-to-65-year-olds in the U.S. general population. You can find our complete insights in our Workplace Mental Health Trends Report: The Future of Work. 

Here’s what we learned about Gen Z and millennial workers when it comes to their mental health and what they expect from employers.

1. Gen Zers and millennials report the most stress and anxiety among all generations.

The younger the workers, the more stress and anxiety they report. About 60% of Gen Zers report feeling stressed or anxious frequently or all the time, compared to approximately 50% of millennials and just 30% of baby boomers. 

The reasons are myriad. Gen Z workers are chronically stressed by factors including school shootings, social injustice, racial violence, a future threatened by climate change, and assaults on democracy. Moreover, these “digital natives” struggle more than other generations with the isolation and loneliness that can result from constant screen time. And now, as they join a largely remote workforce, they’re missing important opportunities to connect and bond with others.

Millennials also have faced extraordinary challenges while coming of age, from 9/11 to wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to the Great Recession, and the housing and student debt crises.

a bar chart showing the percentage of people using digital mental health solution Calm

But today, work-related challenges represent the biggest source of stress and strain. It’s no surprise that younger workers want more support from their employers.

2. They expect employers to help with their stress and anxiety and be transparent about mental health.  

Calm research shows that while all generations think seeking mental health support makes them strong, Gen Zers and millennials (nearly 70%) expect employers to help them reduce their stress and anxiety. Yet only about one-third of employers offer a mental health solution.

The youngest workers not only want employers to offer mental health support, but they also want it out in the open. Seventy-two percent of Gen Z workers want to talk openly about mental health in the workplace, which suggests that the stigma surrounding mental health will continue to decline.

3. Digital mental health tools are key for younger generations, but older generations are coming around.

Raised with technology, Gen Zers and millennials are more likely to turn to digital mental health tools to address stress and anxiousness, but how they use the tools is a bit more nuanced.

Millennials are the most likely to use meditation to reduce stress and anxiousness, followed by Gen Xers and boomers, while Gen Zers are the least likely.

4. Better sleep is on every generation’s wish list.

Gen Zers are the biggest users of digital mental health tools like Calm to help them get a good night’s sleep, but they’re not far ahead of every other generation. Everyone wants and needs good sleep, which is essential for optimal physical and mental health.

a bar chart showing the percentage of people who have served food to each other

And that’s good news when it comes to mental health stigma. Employees of all generations are likely to share their struggles with sleep before they’ll talk about mental health challenges. In this way, addressing sleep is a great mental health icebreaker that will “wake up” more people in your org to address their mental health.

5. Younger generations want solutions that align with their identity.

More Gen Zers (50%) than baby boomers (26%) report wanting employers to offer mental health resources that align with their culture and identity. For HR teams, investing in mental health solutions should be part of a larger DEIB strategy.

Evolving the HR priority list for workforce mental well-being

Tackling the HR list of priorities begins with investing in employee mental health and addressing the needs and expectations of the largest, most stressed, and anxious populations. 

As a starting point, HR teams can provide digital tools to support quality sleep and train managers to recognize sleep issues as early warning signs of stress, anxiousness, and other mental health challenges. They can also align their DEIB and mental health initiatives, tailoring resources to the needs of diverse groups. 

Above all, HR teams should listen to the needs and inputs of Gen Zers and millennials to stay ahead of what’s next when it comes to benefits to support the health of the organization and the future of work.

For more information on how Calm can help you improve the mental health and well-being of all generations in your workforce, connect with our Calm specialist today

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