Are some of your employees thinking of leaving because they believe you don’t care about their mental state? A new survey suggests they are. Even worse, if you’re like most employers, they could be right.
Those are the disturbing results of a new survey of more than 1,700 employees, company leaders, and human resources leaders in the U.S. The survey was commissioned by the mental wellness company Modern Health and conducted by Forrester Consulting. Among other things, it reveals a serious disconnect between how employees think about their own mental health and how business leaders view the issue. Here’s some of what the survey discovered.
1. A third of employees might change jobs to save their mental health.
When asked if they were thinking today about changing companies “for the sake of my mental health,” just over a third of employees answered yes. There’s a good chance they’ll act on those plans. Twenty-eight percent of non-managerial employees and 34 percent of managers say that they’ve left one or more employers to preserve their mental health within the past five years.
2. Employees want their employers to care. Some think they don’t.
When asked if they agreed with the statement “I want my employer to care about my mental health,” 87 percent answered yes. (I find it surprising that 13 percent don’t want their employers to care about this.)
But when asked if their employers actually did care about their mental health, only 66 percent said yes. It doesn’t take a lot of math skills to notice that those who answered no to this question–34 percent–is almost exactly equal to the number who say they’re thinking of leaving their jobs for mental health reasons.
Some employees said the way they’ve been treated during the pandemic confirms that their employers don’t care, or at least not enough. One respondent said that instead of being treated with understanding during this stressful time, employees were “burden[ed] with extra workload and a ‘you just need to get it done’ attitude.”
There’s a clear lesson here for employers. If you haven’t give much thought to your employees’ mental well-being, it’s time to start. And if you do care, make sure they know it.
3. Employers say they care most about the bottom line.
There’s a disconnect between what employees believe their employers think about their mental health, and what those employers actually do think. When asked “If your employer does care about your mental health, why?” employees’ top answer was “to create a happier and healthier workforce.” Only 24 percent thought the reason was “to make more money.”
But 53 percent of employers said that, yes, they were hoping for improved profitability from offering employees mental health support. Sixty-five percent percent said they hoped to see improved productivity.
4. Most employers think they’re doing just fine. But are they?
The vast majority of company and HR leaders in the survey think they’re doing an excellent job when it comes to employees’ mental health. Eighty-five percent believe they offer enough mental health support to employees, and 87 believe their company culture is sufficiently supportive of mental health.
Despite this collective self-pat on the back, the survey suggests these employers aren’t really doing that well by their employees’ mental health. Among company leaders surveyed, 54 percent agreed with this disturbing sentiment: “We are worried that focusing too much on mental health will result in employees working shorter hours, taking time out of their workday to focus on mental health, and being less available to the company outside of working hours.”
More than half of company leaders think it’s a good idea to ignore employees’ mental state so long as those employees are available outside business hours? No wonder people are quitting their jobs in unprecedented numbers.
5. Too much is falling on managers.
The survey makes clear that the bulk of responsibility for safeguarding employees’ mental health is falling on management-level employees. And they’re buckling under the strain. Twenty-six percent say their employers “rarely or never” consider the problem of burnout, and 16 percent say their employers “rarely or never” consider work-life balance.
Most managers–71 percent–said they’d been asked to do more than ever to support their employees over the past year. But most said those greater demands didn’t come with any additional support.
Meantime, when asked to describe their company’s mental health strategies, many company leaders explained that their strategy was to have the line managers take care of it. “Top management asks managers about their employees’ mental health on a regular basis,” one C-level executive responded.
That approach may not work out. Nearly half of the managers in the survey said they don’t even know when it’s appropriate to offer mental health support for a team member and when that would be overstepping a boundary. And 61 percent said that HR–not managers–should handle mental health issues.
With many companies putting off their return-to-the-office plans, and most people disappointed that the expected return to normalcy isn’t happening yet, mental health issues will continue to be an issue. If you’re a leader, it’s high time to start thinking about how your company can help. You could just leave it to your managers to solve with employees–but you may soon find you have a lot fewer of both.
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