Report shows employers making progress on workplace mental health; however, women, people of colour, working parents, and remote workers say support and culture are lacking
While attention to mental wellbeing is broadening in the workplace, employees perceive diminishing support, especially in key demographics, highlighting the work still underway to close gaps in policy and practice, says a report from LifeSpeak Inc. a wellbeing solution provider, and Lighthouse Research & Advisory. The ‘2023 Employer Mental Health Report Card’ says employer scores in key performance areas have decreased in comparison to the 2022 report and employees say lack of support for mental wellbeing makes them more likely to consider leaving their job.
While the overall sentiment regarding employer support for mental health has improved, organizations are still falling short in essential areas and failing to meet the needs of key workforce populations, including women, people of colour, working parents, and remote workers. As a result, employees who do not feel consistent support for mental health from their employers are 5.5 times more likely to say they are thinking about leaving their jobs.
“As the lines between work and personal lives increasingly intersect, employers need to show empathy and understanding for the vast responsibilities that employees juggle every day, the stressors they bring to work with them, and how the workplace can contribute to or detract from employee mental health,” says Michael Held, founder and CEO of LifeSpeak Inc. “Employees are no longer willing to sacrifice their mental health for a paycheck and a title. Organizations that recognize this and establish a supportive culture and accessible mental health benefits will have a distinct advantage in the marketplace.
"High employee turnover, low productivity, increased absenteeism, and low employee satisfaction scores can all be signs that employee wellbeing and mental health are suffering. Whether low mental health is the direct result of the workplace itself or the job that employees have to do every day, or if it's caused by factors in their personal lives that spill over into the workplace, employers should pay close attention to these measures and take steps to address culture and policies that contribute to or detract from mental wellbeing."
According to the report, employees gave their employers an overall score of 6.6 out of 10 for their workplace mental health efforts. This marks an increase from the 2022 survey score of 4.4. However, the survey also revealed that employees were 49% less likely to say their employer made
significant positive changes to support mental health in 2023 than in 2022. In addition, they were 25% more likely to say their company does not have a culture that prioritizes mental wellbeing.
Held says, “Understanding employee mental health starts with understanding employees and the factors that influence their lives at work, at home, and in their community. Being aware of the factors that might be causing stress and anxiety or that distract people during work is the first step to providing the support they need. For example, employees who are caregivers for young children or adult loved ones often struggle to balance work duties and professional opportunities with caregiving responsibilities. They also face financial hardships due to the cost of being a caregiver. Employers can relieve stress and anxiety and improve the mental health of these individuals by providing educational resources, anytime access to caregiving experts and resources, and by examining how their workplace policies could better support the needs of these employees."
Room for improvement for key demographics
While industry studies show that executives increasingly realize their role in workplace wellbeing, the LifeSpeak Inc. report indicates that many organizations still have room for improvement in meeting the needs of key demographics. More specifically, working parents, people of colour, women, and remote workers do not feel their organization is doing enough to advance mental health offerings and to create a supportive workplace culture. This sentiment can negatively affect hiring and retention. For example, seven in 10 remote workers said they have thought about quitting their jobs due to mental health and stress. Additional report findings show:
· 70 percent of working parents say their company made no positive changes to support workplace mental health and were 2.5 times more likely to say they are making plans to quit their job in the next six months. Working parents were also three times as likely to say their company does not provide adequate support for caregivers.
· Employees of colour are 17 percent more likely to say their company has not made positive changes to mental health and twice as likely to say they aren’t sure what changes their employer has made.
· Although the majority of employees who shifted to a remote work setting report it was a positive change, seven in 10 have thought about quitting their job due to mental health or stress related to remote work.
· Less than one percent of women believe their company has a strong culture of mental health, if they don’t experience that support on a personal level. Women who say their mental health is consistently supported at work are 2.25 times less likely to leave their jobs.
· Employees were two and a half times more likely to say they had thought about quitting their job if they didn’t feel supported by the company’s mental wellbeing efforts.
Conversely, the research also highlights the impacts when organizations do invest adequately in mental health. Specifically, employers who prioritize establishing a supportive culture see extensive benefits: 83 percent of highly satisfied workers reported no intention to change jobs, and those accessing personalized benefits rated their wellbeing 51 percent higher. Overall, the data demonstrates that strategically supporting mental health engagement leads to a more retained, resilient workforce.
“Mental wellbeing is not a one-and-done proposition. We encourage leaders and human resources teams to stay in touch with the changing needs of their workforce and the demographics of their population so they can provide useful, personally relevant services, support, and policies,” says Held. “And to truly demonstrate your commitment to mental wellbeing, managers should practice what they preach and model the mental health self-care they want employees to adopt.
"Employers should closely monitor their workplace culture to make sure their environment is one where employees feel emotionally safe. While there has been significant progress made in acknowledging and addressing mental health stigma, we have found that this doesn't always mean employees feel safe or comfortable talking about their mental health needs with their manager or HR team. By making topics like stress, anxiety, depression, or substance use a normal part of the workplace, employers can create a culture where it's safe to express their individual needs. This can be done through workshops, sharing of personal stories in teams, or providing access to on-demand experts and virtual support groups."