- A new survey from the American Psychological Association shows that 81% of employees would prefer to work for companies that offer support for mental health issues.
- Discrimination, harassment, heavy workloads and constant monitoring all impact workplace well-being.
- The number of employers offering better mental health support has likely increased during the pandemic.
- Yet many employees, especially those from marginalized groups, may feel that their mental wellbeing is not a priority in the workplace.
New findings from the American Psychological Association (APA) suggest that the mindset of the American workforce may be changing. Stressors associated with the COVID-19 pandemic have impacted the well-being of employees, many of whom are actively seeking new work.
Glimpses of the APA Work and Wellbeing Survey 2022 reveal that 81% of workers in the United States seek employment opportunities at companies that actively support employee mental health. The survey shows that many challenges arise within the workplace itself, especially in hostile work environments.
“We are currently living in a time of uncertainty created by the ever-evolving global pandemic, international unrest, ongoing supply chain issues, soaring inflation and a major political divide,” Dennis P. StolleJD, PhD, senior director of the APA’s Office of Applied Psychology, told Healthline.
“A typical adult spends a third of their life working – it’s not possible for employees to leave problems at the door when they arrive at work.”
According to the survey, nearly 1 in 5 workers (18%) describe their workplace as somewhat or very toxic.
Stolle noted that the percentage was significantly higher among those who do manual labor (22%), compared to those who do clerical work (15%).
The results also indicate that one-third of respondents had experienced physical abuse, verbal abuse or harassment at work in the past year.
Additionally, companies tending to track employee activity was highlighted in the survey as an emerging factor. Respondents who were monitored at work were twice as likely to report that their work environment had a negative impact on their mental well-being.
“One of the most surprising results is that more than half [53%] of respondents said their employer monitored them using computers, software, cameras, barcode scanners or other technologies,” Stolle said, adding that the true number may be higher. raised. “The remaining 47% include those who don’t know if they are being watched.”
Some employers have recognized the impact of the pandemic on worker well-being and have begun to provide better mental health support to their staff. According to the APA survey, a third of workers said their company’s mental health initiatives have improved since the start of the pandemic.
“71% of respondents to our survey said they thought their employer cared more about the mental health of their employees now than they did in the past,” Stolle said. “It’s good news.”
In addition to mental health support, the survey indicates that employees would also like to see:
- more flexible working hours (41%)
- a culture that respects paid time off (34%)
- the ability to work remotely (33%)
- a 4-day work week (31%)
A large majority (95%) of respondents consider such initiatives to be effective in improving mental health.
Stress, one of the most common mental health problems, can significantly affect well-being.
Physiological symptoms of stress can include:
Cavallaro noted that the impacts of stress on mental health are numerous and can include:
“Employees may feel demotivated, complain more, have higher accident rates, be more likely to leave, and have an overall sense of low morale,” Cavallaro said.
“Challenges in the workplace can lead to problems with timeliness and punctuality, reduced decision-making ability, poor concentration, inappropriate behaviors or outbursts, and poor relationships with others due to low mood , irritability and social withdrawal.”
Mental health supports and flexible work hours can make some improvements to workplace culture. Here are some other strategies employers can implement to prioritize employee well-being.
Prioritize transparency and open dialogue
Stolle noted that nearly half of survey respondents (46%) said they were concerned about what would happen if they told their employer about a mental health issue. They feared it would negatively impact their status at work due to stigma.
“While many employers are moving in the right direction with a greater focus on employee mental health, we still need to do a lot more to normalize mental health conversations,” Stolle said.
Cavallaro added that managers can help reduce fear and stigma by creating a safe and open dialogue for employees to discuss their mental health issues when needed.
“Transparency, open-door policies and feedback are key,” Cavallaro said, adding that gratitude is also key. “One of the biggest reasons employees leave is because they don’t feel appreciated by their manager.”
Organize regular checks on workloads
Excessive workloads inevitably contribute to stress. In fact, the
“In our culture of supply and demand, where quantity trumps quality, it is common for employees to feel pressured and defend their stability at work by stretching more than they should,” Malone said.
To help alleviate workload stress, employers and managers could check in with employees regularly and ask how they can help support them.
Improve diversity from top to bottom
The APA survey indicates that respondents who live with a disability, are black or identify as LGBTQ+ reported higher rates of discrimination in the workplace.
“Until discrimination is fully addressed, certain groups will continue to suffer disproportionately from work-related mental health issues,” Stolle said.
To begin to address these concerns, people in leadership positions may need to take initiative. “People in positions of authority can help create and encourage a culture of healthy collaboration that embraces and respects differences,” Malone said.
To that end, the survey finds that workplaces with women, people of color, or LGBTQ+ people in leadership positions are associated with better equity, diversity, and inclusion policies.
The APA survey paints a picture of an evolving American workforce that wants improvements in workplace mental health support.
While the pandemic may have exacerbated stressors among workers, especially those in marginalized communities, it has also given employers an opportunity to take action to prioritize employee wellbeing.
Transparency, manageable workloads and expectations, and increased diversity are some of the ways employers can support the mental health of their employees at the leadership level. Employees can also benefit from prioritizing their mental well-being outside of the workplace.