Employers Must Rise To Challenge Of Workplace Mental Health Issues Facing Millennials – And Everyone Else

Authored By: Mary Ann Baynton | Publish Date: October 26, 2017

Results of an Ipsos survey released recently on mental health issues in workplaces across Canada should flag to employers that they need to get ahead of a demographic trend highlighting the unique characteristics of millennials if they want to remain competitive in attracting younger employees.

The survey was commissioned by the Great-West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace as part of its continuing efforts to help Canadians understand and respond to workplace mental health needs.

Striking Result

A striking result from the survey is that one in every two members of the youngest generation in Canada’s workplaces say they’ve experienced depression. Fifty per cent of millennial workers (aged 18 to 34) report some experience of depression, compared with 39 per cent of GenXers (35 to 54) and 29 percent of Boomers (55 or older).

Other key findings include that millennial workers are also more likely on average than other age groups to:

  • feel nervous, anxious or on edge most days (21 per cent versus 11 per cent versus seven per cent)
  • be unable to control their worrying on most days (20 per cent versus 11 per cent versus seven per cent)
  • find it difficult to cope with these feelings (17 per cent versus 11 per cent versus nine per cent).

In addition, the survey found millennials are more likely to report being bullied or harassed or discriminated against in the workplace.

The survey results could be disconcerting in relation to any of these age groups, but especially for millennials. However, it is important to consider the results may partly reflect greater understanding and new attitudes about mental health – with younger workers more aware and less likely to be silenced by social stigma, as has been borne out in other research.

At the same time, the Ipsos survey reveals managers are more likely on average than employees to say they’ve experienced depression and indicate higher reporting rates for the symptoms mentioned above. With more millennials moving into management ranks each year, we can expect the need – and demand – for effective workplace responses to rise, driven by these overlapping trends.

Employers ignore these trends at their peril.  Such enduring patterns of distress should be a major flag for senior leaders and business owners that they need to engage workers in discussions about what supports their ability to do their job in a psychologically healthy and safe way.  Such conversations, tailored to each work team, can be a great starting point for removing barriers that prevent many employees from reaching their full potential on the job while sustaining their well-being.

Great Place To Start

Business leaders shouldn’t assume this process needs to be expensive or time-consuming as there are many resources readily at hand. Our centre’s own online library of comprehensive, accessible and free tools is a great place to start, notably with ‘Building Stronger Teams’which is a leader’s guide and activities for developing resilience for you and your team.

The costs of not acting should be incentive enough. A 2016 Conference Board of Canada study estimated depression alone costs the domestic economy $32.3 billion per year in lost productivity.

Mary Ann Baynton is program director for the Great-West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace. Full results for the Ipsos Depression Survey and a wealth of free downloadable tools and resources for employers and employees can be found at the centre’s website (https://www.workplacestrategiesformentalhealth.com/).




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