Half Of Millennials Have Quit A Job For Mental Health Reasons: Study

Half Of Millennials Have Quit A Job For Mental Health Reasons: Study
TORONTO Mental health challenges have invaded the workplace, and companies are losing workers over it. And if new findings are true, its especially impacting younger people.

A study published Monday in the Harvard Business Review , which was co-authored by, found one in five respondents, half of millennials (23 to 38 years old) and three-quarters of Generation Z (under 23) had voluntarily left roles in the past for mental health reasons.

And despite the fact that nearly 60 per cent of respondents said they experienced symptoms of a mental health condition in the past year, less than a third said they felt comfortable talking about these challenges at work.

There are plenty of examples to illustrate why.

When Angela Gregory, a 46-year-old TV producer in Norfolk, Va., spiralled into a tailspin following the loss of her father, she tapped into her vacation days to get by. She had used all of her vacation days in the first two months of the year.

I had gotten to the point where I couldnt function. I was deeply depressed, she explained. When it hit me, it hit me hard.

I just wanted to just get through it, and I wasnt able to get through it.Angela Gregory on depression

Gregory never revealed what she was going through until her bosses confronted her about it.

I really bottled it all up and that was a huge mistake on my part, she said. I just wanted to just get through it, and I wasnt able to get through it.

She said she explained to her managers why she was taking so much time off, and they seemed to understand. But when she went over her annual allotment of sick days, Gregory got reprimanded for it.

They knew why I missed all the days, they knew I was in counselling, she said. I thought I was doing all of the right things at that point.

Resiliency expert Dr. Robyne Hanley-Dafoe, who also works as a senior education developer at Trent University in Peterborough, Ont., told HuffPost Canada that despite years of efforts, the stigma around mental health is still very real.

People are concerned about the repercussions, she said. The study, which featured responses from 1,500 people aged 16 and older working full-time jobs in the U.S., appears to back that up.

Oftentimes, individuals managing mental health conditions are associated with negative perceptions and stereotypes such as being irresponsible, incompetent, lazy, or dangerous, the study said.

Companies have their own business realities to deal with. After all, work doesnt stop because people dont feel well. But working too hard, especially when youre not at your best, can have negative consequences, and Dr. Hanley-Dafoe said research shows it actually hinders performance in the long run.

Unfortunately, I think a lot of employees are actually getting burned out in hours that are technically not work hours, but theyre bringing work home with them. Theyre not taking breaks. Theyre working through their lunch hours.

And what the research says is working through your lunch hour and not taking breaks might get you the work done in the short term, but long term, the cost is actually greater than what you would have saved with productivity and performance.

Companies actually stand to benefit more from a workforce that avoids being overworked, according to Dr. Hanley-Dafoe.

When your people are feeling healthy and theyre balanced and they have good support, youre actually going to get more out of them than when youre working with people who are working post-40 hours a week.

Dr. Robyne Hanley-Dafoe/Twitter

Dr. Robyne Hanley-Dafoe is photographed at Trent University in Peterborough, Ont., in June 2016. She says young people are entering the workforce with a new sense of boundaries and an awareness of their mental health.

So what do people increasingly want from their employers? According to the study, theyre looking for workplaces that prioritize mental health. In fact, young people appear to be leading the charge as advocates on that endeavour.

Theyre more aware and more familiar with what their rights are, said Dr. Hanley-Dafoe. They are actually coming into the workforce with boundaries.

These younger generations have seen first-hand what burnout can do. Theyve seen their parents work so hard and get burned out for a retirement that seems more elusive than before. Now, they are advocates for a more balanced life, and theyre putting their own priorities first.

Theyre not working to live, theyre working to feed their lifestyle, the educator acknowledged. Do I see drops in resiliency? Absolutely.

Theres no simple solution to this complicated issue, but there are ways to move forward.

For example, Gregory said many of her co-workers didnt know they had access to an employee assistance program, the kind that connected her to the grief counsellor she so desperately needed.

Companies that offer that could do a better job of explaining how it is and what it does and the benefit, other than just saying heres this thing that you have, she said.

Dr. Hanley-Dafoe said work-life balance may sound like a solution, but theres no one way to balance everything. Instead, she recommends that people ask themselves this question:

Whats the right amount of time that match my priorities so I feel balanced?

And if you think self-care is a luxury you cant afford, maybe its time to rethink what that means.

Stop calling it self-care; this is self-preservation, and were good at it. And that unleashes a part of ourselves that can advocate, that can make our health a priority when we think about it as self-preservation.
Read more on The Huffington Post
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