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Why GenZ is so worried about Mental Health at Work?

“Mental health is not a destination, but a process. It is about how you drive, not where you’re going.” This quote was rightly stated by Noam Shpancer, a professor of Psychology at Otterbein College in Israel and a certified clinical psychologist.


We’ve all come across the term mental health in various aspects of our life. Some of us associate it with our school life, some of us relate it to our working days while the rest of us connect it to our relationships. In simple words mental health is the psychological, emotional and social well-being of an individual and affects the way he/she thinks, feels and relates with others. It can be both positive and negative in nature. Being predominantly healthy or in positive mental health is linked to feelings such as contentment, mindfulness and cheer. On one hand intrusive negative thoughts can result in depression, generalized anxiety and stress. As an undergraduate student I’ve always wondered what it would be like to have a fulltime job and how would I be able to manage my workload and my finances. What if I’m not able to complete my tasks on time? What if I’m not able to provide the requested figures? Will my boss be satisfied with my performance? and many such questions are always stuck in my head. As I dwelt deeper into this topic, I began reading about the deterioration of mental health at work and its growing concerns. Over the past years there has been major changes in the way people think and work. We find that there is more that employers can do to support the mental health among their workforce.



Generation Z and Mental Health at Work

The concept of mental health has always been a delicate one and for the longest time people have taken it for granted. There is a range of evidence about the increasing prevalence of mental health challenges at work. It is common knowledge that everything comes with a price tag: mental health has also a cost in organizations. The cost borne by employers in terms of poor mental health at work is substantial in nature. Let us consider a situation to understand this in a better manner. Imagine sitting on your chair with a huge pile of files in front of your face, your cell phone and landline ringing at the same time, and a series of chattering and murmuring affecting your ears from a distance. You have not had your morning coffee yet as you had to rush for a meeting and within an hour you find yourself with a terrible migraine. You still continue to work with all this pressure and as a colleague approaches you for help with a project, you lash out at her due to your mental exhaustion. This is a perfect example of a person experiencing poor mental health at his/her workplace.


Presenteeism refers to a situation where individuals come into work when they are unwell and work at a reduced level of productivity or effectiveness. Absence at work and presenteeism are closely related but the latter seems to grow at a faster rate as people choose to continue their work instead of taking time off.

The cost to employers of mental-health related presenteeism are roughly three and a half times more the cost of mental-health absences.

Scientifically speaking the causes for such an issue can be divided into three broad root causes. In my opinion, today’s generation are more susceptible to mental-health issues than the older generation. A 2019 survey of 16-25 year old found that 18% of the respondents do not find life worth living. Today’s youth find themselves very lonely. Most of them have moved out of their parents’ homes to find a job and make their career. This requires them to find a place of their own which leads us to the second category, financial stability. In order to support themselves they work for long hours without giving themselves a break. Over a period of time this leads to anxiety, workload stress or even burnouts. Most of men and women today find themselves on social media sites to cope with their loneliness. Living around people is necessary! both for your mental and physical well-being. Over half the youth who suffer from stress over their personal and financial life status further go into depression. Employees with financial worries engage more in smoking, become obese, have irregular sleeping schedules and also end up with hypertension.


Workaholics or employees who are in an ‘always-on’ workplace are more likely to experience ‘Leaveism’, a term which usually defines the individuals who are unable to switch-off from work. With the prevailing situation, this era of the global pandemic has forced individuals to work more remotely. In my opinion, working at home does not allow you to differentiate between the days your supposed to take a time-off and the days you have to work. Due to increased connectivity individuals are not able to switch-off mentally from their long working hours. This makes them mentally exhausted.


Over the years employers have taken a number of steps to support employees who suffer from serious mental health issues. They have increased their investment to provide support and training to the staff appropriately as well as created an adequate check list to ensure employees get proper time-off. Furthermore, they have promoted an open work culture so that employees aren’t reluctant to share the problems they are facing. I think this measure is an extremely important one. People take more time to speak up when they feel the are being judged instead of understood.


Poor mental health is an alarming concern in today’s world and has to be solved immediately. It is my concern and one of the biggest fear in my generation (GenZ).



 

Vipasha Balani

Bessern Associate (a GenZ voice)