Last month, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management issued a memo advocating for mental health awareness, and highlighting a number of wellness resources available to federal agencies and employees.
The memo arrived on the heels of a National Association of Counties (NACo) study finding counties across the nation “facing an acute escalation of the mental and behavioral health crisis.”
Now, another study provides more data suggesting that mental health is indeed worsening across the workforce.
In a recent Conference Board poll, more than 1,100 American employees shared insight into their mental health, job engagement levels and sense of job security. For the purpose of the study, mental health was defined as “a state of mind characterized by emotional well-being, good behavioral adjustment, relative freedom from anxiety and disabling symptoms, and a capacity to establish constructive relationships and cope with the ordinary demands and stresses of life,” according to the Conference Board.
More than one-third of the survey’s respondents (34%) said their self-reported level of mental health is lower than six months ago, with 37% saying their sense of belonging is lower. Not surprisingly, other findings underline the link between mental well-being and workplace performance, with close to 70% of those reporting worse mental health saying they’re less engaged in their jobs.
What’s Driving Mental Health Decline
Just as one’s mental health affects their performance on the job, work-related woes are bound to have an adverse impact on one’s overall mental well-being.
Consider this survey’s finding that long hours and heavy workloads were two of the driving forces behind respondents’ declining mental health. Close to half (48%) of those who reported recent decreases in their mental well-being said they worked more than 50 hours a week.
This figure remained fairly consistent across gender and generation, as 49% of women said increased hours and workloads were hurting their mental health, compared to 39% of men saying as much. Half of millennials said the same about their workload and their mental health, compared to 48% of Gen X employees and 40% of baby boomers.
This poll did not distinguish between public sector and private sector workers. But the type of burnout that employees reported to the Conference Board seems to be especially prevalent throughout the public sector workforce.
Another recent survey, conducted by Eagle Hill Consulting, saw 52% of 475 public sector employees reporting work-related burnout, compared to 46% of their counterparts in the private sector.
“Demands on the government workforce are only growing, while public sector employers continue to face recruitment and retention challenges,” said Melissa Jezior, president and CEO of Eagle Hill Consulting, in a statement.
“Public employers have got to get to the root causes of worker burnout and implement solutions. Otherwise, it’s an endless cycle of government employees exhausted, stressed and looking for another job. That’s just not sustainable for workers and delivery of essential public services.”
Encouraging Workers to Disconnect
The Eagle Hill Consulting poll offered some insight into what might help curtail the burnout that’s contributing to many employees’ mental well-being struggles. For example, 69% of respondents said increased flexibility would help, and another 66% indicated that a four-day work week could cut down on burnout. Others cited decreased workload (65%), working from home (60%), better health and wellness benefits (61%), reduced administrative burdens (58%) and more on-site amenities (50%).
Respondents to the more recent Conference Board survey seek the same things to help their mental health. For example, 55% said being able to take “no work” PTO days without guilt would have a positive effect on their mental well-being. Another 52% said a flexible or hybrid work schedule would have the same type of impact, with 48% saying the same about being able to work from home. In addition, 47% felt that training managers to promote a healthy work-life balance would improve employees’ mental state.
The Conference Board’s findings reveal that many workers “are really struggling” with mental health issues at the moment, said Rebecca Ray, the organization’s executive vice president of human capital, in a statement.
“This could be due to a combination of factors both inside and outside of the workplace, but the fact remains that it can have an outsized impact on work performance,” she said. “Workers need the ability to truly disconnect and reset, but many companies are now recognizing that this can be a major challenge when their colleagues are still working.”
While noting that some organizations have opted for enterprise-wide “no-work” days or weeks, even smaller steps can go a long way toward helping employees truly unplug from the office when they need to do so, said Ray.
“ … Letting your employees disconnect can simply mean ensuring everyone has an established backup and setting strict no-contact policies for staff on vacation.”
20 June 2023
HR News Article