Marking its 10th anniversary, Deloitte Global conducted its annual survey on Millennials and Gen Zs between January and February 2021, to understand their values, concerns, actions, expectations, and ultimately what key events and trends affect them and drive their loyalty as consumers and employees. This research surveyed nearly 23,000 Millennial and Gen Z respondents from across 45 countries, revealing that stress and anxiety levels remain high. As the workforce is more and more composed by these two generations, companies’ performance will be deeply connected to how leaders will prioritize mental health at the workplace, creating a culture that enables employees to be at their best.

In fact, the last 1,5 years brought unprecedented challenges due to the pandemic - leading to increased stress and anxiety and a longing for better work-life balance for many surveyed. These problems came essentially due to the sudden change of habits, the acceleration of this digital world, loss of freedom and socialization, concerns for the future and for our health and the health of our loved ones. We went from a physical and social world to a digital and strange reality. Logically, with these factors, mental health challenges multiplied if not worsened. We know that mental health does not only affect individuals but also the organizations in which they work. And that’s a point that leaders need to acknowledge and act on. Leaders should commit, invest, and promote well-being, making it as important as any other factor that affects company performance.

Although overall drivers of stress and anxiety vary widely, this survey shows that the #1 cause of stress was financial concerns, followed by general concerns for the future. When comparing their current lives to those they led before the COVID-19 pandemic, about half of respondents said they feel more stressed than before. Similar to last year's survey, women report feeling more stressed and anxious. The pandemic contributed to more discussions and consciousness about mental health at work, however, the survey shows that stigma at work is still a reality. Employers most likely lack to understand how far employees have been affected, as most of the respondents admit that they have not spoken about it to their employers or line managers. Also, about a third of all respondents said they’ve taken time off work due to stress and anxiety since the start of the pandemic, but results signal ongoing discomfort around admitting the real reason for stress-related absences. Unfortunately, many Millennials and Gen Zs see their employers’ efforts around supporting their mental health as inadequate: only one in five said that they are doing well.

These results show that better workplace support is needed, in a culture that promotes and embeds inclusive everyday behaviors, that allows stress to be acknowledged, and that offers preventive measures and ongoing support. In fact, the survey has also shown a clear correlation between the support offered when it comes to mental health at work and the level of stress and anxiety reported by employees. This study emphasizes how critical it is for mental health and for talent retention that employers enable work-life balance, and that has never been a more pressing need for leaders to make mental health at work a priority.

Have a great and impactful week!

Joana Pais Afonso
Culture and People Experience 
Deloitte Portugal

This article refers to edition #112 of the "Have a Great and Impactful Week" Newsletter.
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