Are You Meeting Your Employees' Mental Health Needs?

BY Kathy Crosett
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All leaders know that employee turnover is an organizational fact of life. But the extent of turnover among younger employees is staggering. New research from Mind Share Partners, Qualtrics and SAP indicates the problem is growing, and it’s not for the reasons you might suspect. The data shows mental health is a core issue in employee turnover.

The Numbers

The trend of feeling stressed at work, as opposed to wanting more opportunity or compensation, leads employees to leave. The latest statistics indicate up to 50% of millennials have left a job because they felt burnt out. The numbers are even worse for the youngest members of our workforce: Gen Zers. Nearly 75% of these people say mental health issues drove them to leave one employer for another.

The news is grim when we take thoughts of suicide into account. More than one study shows that the rate of suicidal thoughts have increased dramatically in the past few years. Coupled with the jump in diagnosed mental illnesses, this trend is nothing short of an epidemic, and employers should be doing their part to help.

The Solutions

Decades ago, people hid their mental health problems. They didn’t want to appear weak. And, they never wanted to report their struggles in the workplace for fear of losing their jobs.

Fortunately, we’ve all grown more comfortable discussing mental health challenges. Organizational leaders can take charge on this topic. They need to show their commitment to helping employees with mental health challenges. Offering treatment coverage as part of the health care package can make a big difference for an employee who needs to talk with a professional. In fact, employees now expect this benefit to be available.

Companies should also address workplace culture. Is everyone feeling stressed because management has committed to unachievable goals? It may be time to back down on what you expect from your team members.

Going Forward

The experts aren't sure exactly what’s contributing to the stress and anxiety that our younger workers are feeling. Some mental health experts point to social media as a cause. Our natural tendencies to socialize in person have been supplanted by social media. If that’s true, managers can encourage more in-​person interaction in the workplace — from meetings to lunch-​and-​learn sessions.

Addressing the topic head-​on in staff meetings, as Cisco’s CEO recently did, makes a difference. When you put mental health issues front and center, you normalize them. Employees may be just as likely to suffer from anxiety or depression as they are to be dealing with a viral infection. These employees also want to do a good job for you. Give them the support, culture and benefits packages they need in order to succeed.