In the name of better workforce productivity, a growing number of leaders are calling employees back into the office. In doing so, some CEOs are citing concerns about the negative impact working remotely can have on employee well-being, especially on the psyches of younger workers. But for employers concerned about employee mental health and workforce productivity, a hybrid work model is the best choice, Calm research shows.
In our 2023 Workplace Mental Health Trends Report: The Future of Work, we uncover five key trends about the state of mental health today and what employers can do to better support employees and their families.
Leaders grappling with workplace policy may be interested in trend number four: hybrid employees take the most care of their mental health. As a result, they’re the happiest and least stressed employees—critical factors for workforce productivity. Here’s more context behind this trend.
Loneliness and isolation are growing workforce challenges
Even as the pandemic wanes, employee mental health continues to suffer. Employee stress is at an all-time high, and more than 90% of leaders are concerned about employee burnout.
But stress and burnout aren’t the only challenges when it comes to workforce mental health and well-being. Calm found that the number of people experiencing loneliness, anxiousness, and social disconnection is significantly higher in the new world of work, which puts the mental and physical health of employees, along with their productivity, at risk.
The stress created by chronic loneliness can lead to depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders. It also can impair cognitive functioning, suppress the immune system, and increase the risk of inflammation and heart disease.
Lonely employees are less productive and more likely to leave
For employers, growing workforce loneliness and stress means higher rates of employee absenteeism and attrition amid enduring labor shortages. According to a study by Cigna, lonely employees miss nearly six more days of work per year due to stress than workers who don’t feel lonely. And employees who feel lonely are twice as likely as their peers to leave their job within the next year.
2023 Workplace Mental Health Trends Report: The Future of Work
Get the latest insights on mental health benefits gaps in 2023 and what support employees want next.Get the report
Movement can help, but more people lack movement during the workday
Not only are more people experiencing loneliness and anxiousness post-pandemic, but fewer are getting movement during the workday, according to our study. This finding is concerning because movement is critical to improving mood and relieving anxiousness. We found that people who completed a movement session were 18% more likely to report feeling less anxious and stressed than those who didn’t. Yet lack of movement is a problem for more than twice as many people today as before the pandemic.
Hybrid employees are the happiest and least stressed
There is a silver lining, however. In ana emotional welfare by workplace, we found that employees who work in a hybrid model are the happiest and least stressed. Hybrid workers were consistently the most likely to take care of their mental health, whether by getting outdoors, exercising, listening to music, meditating, or spending time with family and friends.
In contrast, employees who work at home full time felt the most stressed and anxious. A lack of boundaries between work and home or a lack of social support could be reasons why.
3 things employers can do to promote employee mental health and productivity in the new world of work
Meet employees in the middle: go hybrid
Employers can embrace a hybrid work model rather than mandate that employees return to the office five days a week. Balancing in-person and remote work is vital for employee health, well-being, and productivity, contrary to what some leaders currently believe.
Take loneliness seriously
Chronic loneliness affects mental health, physical health, and productivity, so it’s critical that employers take it seriously. In addition to a hybrid model of work, they can create programs to help employees connect with each other. Mentorships, interest groups, and volunteer work are some of the ways to help employees form bonds inside and outside work.
Integrate movement into the workday
With lack of movement a growing workforce challenge, HR and benefits leaders should consider integrating movement into employees’ workdays. This could include starting meetings with stretch breaks or encouraging employees to hold walking meetings.
About the report
To understand employee mental health needs, Calm conducted a quantitative study of 2,000+ 18-to-65-year-olds in the U.S. from September 23 to October 7, 2022. The study is nationally representative, with quotas across age, gender, race, ethnicity, and region. We also analyzed aggregate data patterns of 4 million+ Calm users. Complete findings are published in Calm’s 2023 Workplace Mental Health Trends Report: The Future of Work.
To find out more workplace mental health trends and insights, download our 2023 Workplace Mental Health Trends Report.