Employee Wellness

Stress & Burnout

How Employers Can Help Improve the Mental Well-being of Gen Z Workers

Calm’s annual worker survey reveals the primary stressors negatively affecting the mental health and well-being of Gen Z workers—and how you can help.

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The Calm Team

7 min read

Nearly two-and-a-half years ago, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy outlined several steps employers can take to improve the mental health and well-being of Gen Z workers, now 18 to 27 years old. His recommendations were part of a broader advisory to help the country combat the growing mental health crisis among children, adolescents, and young adults.

Today, more work needs to be done, according to Calm’s annual survey of 4,000+ workers worldwide. Mental well-being among all workers remains alarmingly poor, but Gen Z workers are feeling the worst. Ninety percent of Gen Z employees reported feeling anxious or stressed in the past month, for example, compared to 85% of millennials and 75% of Gen X workers. And nearly three-quarters of Gen Z employees reported feeling depressed, compared to about two-thirds of millennials and just over half of Gen X employees and baby boomers.

On a more positive note, by uncovering some factors uniquely affecting Gen Z workers’ mental well-being, the research also points to additional steps employers can take to support them, beyond the recommendations of the US Surgeon General. 

The primary stressors negatively affecting US Gen Z workers

Like the US general population, Gen Zers are feeling stressed about the cost of living, financial instability, and being overworked. These factors represent the top stressors negatively affecting the mental health of all US workers. But a few things are affecting Gen Zers more than workers of other generations:

  • Gen Zers are the loneliest generation. Next to financial woes and overwork, loneliness is weighing on them the most.. US Gen Z workers are 55% more likely than the general population of workers to say that loneliness is negatively affecting their mental health. In addition to growing up with social media, entering the workforce in the era of hybrid or remote work could be contributing to their feelings of loneliness.
  • Yet Gen Z employees in the US are 62% more likely than all US workers to say a lack of flexibility in work arrangements is affecting their mental well-being. 
  • Not surprisingly, social media and “figuring out who I am” are also top-10 stressors unique to Gen Z workers, and career uncertainty is a bigger concern for Gen Zers than for older workers.
  • US Gen Zers are 47% more likely to say their manager has an extremely negative impact on their well-being.

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The good news about Gen Z workers in the data

But the research uncovered some positive insights, too. For example, US Gen Zers who are managers are 33% more likely than other managers to feel extremely confident about having mental health conversations with the employees they manage (64%), with 98% feeling at least somewhat confident. 

And perhaps most important, Gen Z is leading the charge for change. More than 75% of Gen Z employees in the US have advocated for evolving benefits or changes in their workplace. 

What’s more, they have unique perspectives in these areas. While the general population has advocated first and foremost for cost-of-living/inflation adjustments to wages, Gen Z workers have advocated for better healthcare coverage for mental health and/or fertility care. And whereas the general population has pushed for hybrid work environments, Gen Zers have pushed for eco-friendly initiatives such as recycling and eliminating single-use plastic. Gen Zers are also 60% more likely than the general population to campaign for diversity and inclusion programs in the workplace. 

How employers can better support Gen Z workers

Recommendations from the US Surgeon General

The US Surgeon General outlined several steps employers can take to support the mental health of both Gen Z employees and the children of older employees. In addition to creating a culture that affirms the importance of mental health and well-being for employees and families, these recommendations include the following:

  • Providing access to comprehensive, affordable, age-appropriate mental health care for all employees and their families, including dependents
  • Implementing policies such as paid family leave, sick leave, and respite care for caregivers
  • Offering flexible work arrangements or support in finding affordable childcare
  • Building awareness of mental health benefits through comprehensive internal communication and training
  • Working to break down the mental health stigma through clear messaging that promotes mental health awareness and addresses common misconceptions about mental health

Additional steps to protect the mental health of your youngest workers

Based on Calm’s research, employers can do more to support the needs of their youngest workers and their employees with dependents. Here are five steps employers can take to support Gen Zers’ mental well-being:

  • For the generation of digital natives, supplement your employee assistance program with digital mental health and wellness tools such as Calm that they can use anytime, anywhere for support in the moment of need. By addressing their stress and anxiousness proactively, employees can help prevent these issues from escalating into more serious health conditions. 
  • In remote/hybrid work arrangements, Gen Zers are missing out on important mentoring, learning, and social and bonding opportunities. Consider filling these gaps by establishing mentoring programs, employee resource groups, and/or social clubs around shared interests.
  • Gen Zers have a clear set of priorities, including improving eco-friendly practices and accessibility and fostering diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in the workplace. Tap their passion and drive to help develop innovative practices, policies, and benefits at your organization.
  • Consider offering training or education on financial planning activities such as budgeting, managing cash flow, and reducing debt. Explore providing access to experts who can help employees navigate benefits selections and make informed decisions.
  • Develop more mindful managers who can lead with empathy, regulate their emotions, and create less stressful work environments. Gen Z managers may feel confident in their ability to have mental health conversations, but it’s important to provide training so they can recognize mental distress in employees and speak openly about mental health. Explore Calm Workshops as a place to start.

Gen Z workers are losing productivity due to mental health

When employees aren’t feeling their best, their work suffers. Employees largely agree: according to Calm’s survey, 60% of employees who experience anxiousness or sleep problems say it affects their performance at work. Worse, research has shown that employees under the age of 30 lose 60 productive days per year primarily due to mental health challenges. As more Gen Zers enter the workforce, it’s important to take additional steps to protect the mental health and well-being of your organization’s youngest workers.

For more information about how Calm can help you support your Gen Zers and workers in all generations, connect with our Calm specialist today

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