Mental Health in the Workplace
For the more than half of employed Americans working from home during the pandemic—many of whom had previously been in an office—the sudden switch to remote work wasn’t without its challenges. From having to quickly get up to speed on remote technology to navigating a very new work-life balance, the transition was anything but easy.
Even those who had already been working remotely struggled to deal with shifting job responsibilities and ever-increasing obligations at home. Millions of Americans found themselves suddenly unemployed, and people who continued to work outside of the home faced obstacles with social distancing guidelines and changing work hours. In other words, everyone has felt the impact.
FlexJobs partnered with Mental Health America (MHA) to conduct a survey of more than 1,500 respondents to check in on how people are faring mentally at work during these unprecedented times. Here’s what we found.
Stress Leads to Burnout at Work
The World Health Organization defines burnout as a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that’s characterized by feelings of exhaustion or energy depletion, negative or cynical feelings related to a job, and reduced professional efficacy.
Our survey indicated that 75% of people have experienced burnout at work, with 40% saying they’ve experienced burnout specifically during the pandemic. This is not surprising, given that 37% of employed respondents say they are currently working longer hours than usual since the pandemic started.
However, employees aren’t getting the support they need to cope. Despite the increased hours and stress, just 21% (one in five) say they were able to have open, productive conversations with HR about solutions to their burnout. Fifty-six percent went so far as to say that their HR departments did not encourage conversations about burnout.
Mental Health Decline During the Pandemic
A lack of workplace support on top of already challenging circumstances can negatively impact workers’ mental health. Prior to the pandemic, just 5% of employed workers and 7% of unemployed workers said their mental health was poor or very poor. Now, 18% of employed and 27% of unemployed workers say they are struggling with mental health issues.
Mental health as a whole is suffering since the start of the pandemic, but stress is of particular concern to workers. Of employed workers, 42% say their stress levels are currently high or very high, while 47% of those who are unemployed report high stress levels. The top stressors for respondents include:
- Personal finances
- Current events
- Concern over their family’s health
- Job responsibilities
Work and Mental Health Are Intertwined
For better or for worse, the work environment has a direct impact on mental and emotional health. More than three-quarters (76%) of respondents agree that workplace stress affects their mental health, leading to depression or anxiety, and 17% strongly agree.
While only 51% of workers say they have the emotional support they need at work to help manage their stress, they do believe there are ways employers can help staff navigate workplace stress and support mental health.
For 56% of respondents, having flexibility in their workday was overwhelmingly listed as the top way their workplace could better support them. Encouraging time off and offering mental health days were tied for second and third at 43%. And 28% felt that increased PTO and better health insurance were the next best ways to provide support.
Survey respondents say they would also be open to participating in virtual mental health solutions if they were offered through their workplace, such as:
- Meditation sessions (45%)
- Healthy eating classes (38%)
- Virtual workout classes (37%)
- Desktop yoga (32%)
- Webinars about mental health topics (31%)
How to Avoid Burnout as a Remote Worker
Seventy-six percent of respondents are currently working remotely, which can lead to additional stress if not done mindfully. These five key tips can help workers avoid burnout and enjoy the benefits of remote work, both during the pandemic and beyond.
1. Develop Boundaries
One of the difficult things about being a remote worker is that you’re never really “out of the office,” so it’s important to set boundaries. Have a dedicated work space that you can leave at the end of the day, and start and end your work day with a ritual that signals to your brain it’s time to change from work to personal, or vice versa.
2. Turn Off Email and Work Notifications
Turning off email when you’re not “at work” is essential—you shouldn’t be available all the time. Let your teammates and manager know your general schedule and when you’re “off the clock” so they know when they can and can’t get in touch.
3. Engage in More Personal Activities
Most people struggle with the “work” part of work-life balance. Schedule personal activities and have several go-to hobbies that you enjoy so you’ll have something specific to do with your personal time and won’t be tempted to work during your off hours.
4. Ask for Flexible Scheduling
Asking your manager for a flexible schedule can help you better control your days and balance both your personal and professional responsibilities.
5. Focus on Work During Work Hours
Rather than letting “life” responsibilities creep into your workday, dedicate your work hours to just work. If you’re productive and efficient throughout the day, it will be easier to walk away feeling accomplished and not feeling like you have to work into the night.
Take Control of Your Mental Health
With so much upheaval in every part of life during the pandemic, it’s no wonder that workers are feeling the effects of increased stress. The good news is that you can take steps to prevent burnout and maintain a healthy work-life balance.
If your stress feels unmanageable or you have other mental health concerns, take a free, confidential, and anonymous mental health screen. Online screening is one of the quickest and easiest ways to determine whether you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition.
If your current employer isn’t checking all the boxes when it comes to supporting your mental health, it may be time to move on. Log in to FlexJobs today to find a remote or flexible job that gives you the support you need to thrive on every level.
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