The verdict is in: Mental health is no longer a nice-to-have program or one-time initiative. In a Calm for Business survey* conducted in October 2021 of 3,000 18- to 54-year-old full-time employees in the US, we discovered some surprising (and not-so-surprising) new data on how the pandemic has impacted employee mental health.
The need for employers to invest in employee mental health has never been clearer: 97% of respondents said that employers should be working to improve the mental health of their employees, and 76% say that mental health benefits were critical to them when evaluating a new job.
“We spend half of our waking hours at work, and the data is now clear: mental health benefits are table stakes for employees,” said Scott Domann, chief people officer at Calm, in response to the survey results. “As employers, we owe it to our teams to foster a supportive, inclusive work environment, and that starts with championing the mental health of our team.”
Here are our top findings, and the positive role employers can take in this moment of workplace mental health reckoning.
1. Working through a pandemic has taken a damaging toll on workers
Work has severely impacted the mental health of full-time employees since the start of the pandemic. Over the last month alone, a majority of surveyed employees are experiencing these effects:
- 91% are not feeling rested enough;
- 87% feel nervous, anxious, stressed;
- 80% are having a difficult time falling and staying asleep;
- 75% are unable to control worrying;
- 70% are feeling down and depressed.
Certain populations are feeling these effects more than most. Experiences of worrying, lack of rest, and depression are around 5-10% higher in both Gen Z and LGBTQ+ full-time employees. Gen Z and millennial full-time employees are feeling the effects of burnout outside of their 9-5 working hours, with one in four noting that work stress bleeds into personal stress, saying that work “consumes their mind” even after they leave the office or wrap up for the day.
2. Feeling recognized and included at work has a major impact on overall employee mental health
Across the board, work is a major contributor to poor mental health — 43% of full-time employees attribute their negative mental health to their job, with lack of recognition and belonging dulling their motivation and disrupting their ability to focus.
These employees feel the most stress and anxiety when they aren’t recognized for hard work and don’t meet work goals. One in five are even wondering if their workplace would feel their loss if they died tomorrow.
Recognition and belonging has a direct effect on output. Overall productivity decreased by 50% when full-time employees were affected by mental health challenges, suggesting that the more supported full-time employees feel, the more they’re able to perform at their best.
3. Despite a renewed focus on mental health from employers, employees still don’t feel supported enough at work
There’s a dramatic mismatch between what full-time employees expect of their employers and what employers are actually doing to support employee mental health.
- 40% feel their employer hasn’t supported their mental health during the pandemic, with the lack of support felt most among mothers.
- Even worse, 66% don’t feel comfortable talking about their mental health with their manager.
Where employers are supporting full-time employees with mental health programs, many of those employees don’t feel like they can take advantage of them. While mental health days and vacation time are widely offered, they aren’t utilized for a variety of reasons:
- 3 in 4 full-time employees said they decided not to take a “sick day” or “mental health day” within the last month, even though they should have.
- 1 in 4 full-time employees feel like they’re letting their team down when they take vacation.
- They’re looking to their leaders to set an example: 78% would make space for mental health breaks during their workday, if encouraged by their employer.
A one-size fits all approach isn’t the solution, as employees are looking for a range of options from employers in supporting their mental health: Half are looking for designated mental health days in addition to sick days, a third for wellness stipends, and a quarter for access to therapists.
Full-time employees said they’re even willing to give up other benefits in place of a mental health benefit, such as their Netflix subscription (44%), cell phone stipend (27%), and internet or commuter reimbursement (23%).
Full-time employees need more tangible mental health resources to thrive at work today
It’s time to support your employees’ mental health more robustly than before. We encourage you to check out these resources to get started:
- Employee Well-Being: A Guide For HR Leaders
- How to Choose an Employee-Centric Mental Wellness Platform
- Your Checklist for a Successful Employee Well-Being Strategy
Ready to support your employees’ mental health needs even further? Partner with Calm, the #1 app for sleep and mindfulness, to provide your population with tools for building resilience and recovering from burnout they can access anytime. Get in touch for a demo now.
*Calm for Business research was fielded among n = 3,000 18-54-year-old full time employees in the US during 10/17-10/24 and is nationally representative with quotas across age, gender, race, ethnicity, and region.