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Tackling Millennial Anxiety and Stress at Work

4th April, 2019

Patrick Williams, Clinical director, LifeWorks by Morneau Shepell.




Recent reports show that there is a rise in millennial burnout. Severe pressures in both their work and personal lives is inducing anxiety and disrupted sleep amongst the generation. It is evident that this generation seems to be struggling more with mental health issues than the generations that precede them.

Compounding these issues are the new social challenges brought about by the mobile age that are driving unrealistic expectations of what life should look like. For millennials who live their lives through their mobile devices, isolation and anxiety are commonplace.  

Amidst all of this, however, there is an opportunity to be seized. Millennials have a big part to play in opening up conversations about mental health. Organisations have a key role to play in helping to promote these conversations to help prevent and tackle mental health challenges faced by today’s workforce.

There are some new pressures affecting younger employees specifically, the likes of which have never been seen before, such as social media and the financial pressures around housing. Research carried out by The Mental Health Foundation (MHF) found that over a quarter (28%) of millennials, those aged between 18-38, felt under pressure at work compared to 12% of baby boomers.

In order for HR to effectively support this demographic, the right balance must be struck between tailoring support for all demographics and not generalising, stereotyping, or neglecting other age groups who might be struggling in different ways, and potentially less visibly.

Today’s diverse workforce

The workforce of today is currently made up of four generations of employees - Matures (born before 1946), Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964), Gen Xers (born between 1965 and 1980), and Gen Yers or Millennials, (born between 1981 and 2000).

Each generation brings with them different learning styles and a variety of differences in knowledge, perspective, and expertise. But it’s essential to encourage employees of all generations to be proactive about finding opportunities to learn and stay fresh, focused, and motivated.

It’s also important to remember that everyone, regardless of age, has a different learning style and that technology, to some degree, will impact this. Older generations have had technology thrust upon them, while millennials have grown up with smartphones and social media.

In addition, some people may prefer to "learn by doing," while others may prefer to read books or listen to experts' presentations or attend seminars. The bottom line is, individuals differ in their learning styles and those differences have nothing to do with age. 

It’s claimed that millennials feel the pressures of work stress far more than their older counterparts and while there are statistics to support this, we must also consider that millennials are also more open and honest about mental health, whereas older generations still suffer from some residual stigma.

It's true that millennials also face some unique pressures. Today, many adults take care of both their children and their parents. These adults are known as "the sandwich generation," because their needs often become caught, or sandwiched, between those of the older and younger generation.

Members of the sandwich generation are typically between 35 and 60 years old. They frequently struggle to meet the many needs of their children and aging parents at a time when they are also busy working and planning their own futures. Many of those people say that they provide financial assistance, emotional help, and practical assistance with daily activities.

 

Developing Employee Assistance Programmes

Inour annual research on Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) users, we consistently find that the two youngest age groups (younger than 30 and 30 – 39) account for about two-thirds of all of the users of EAP services (statistics from 2018). We also find that mental health and stress are the most common reason to engage with an EAP, at 41 percent.

As there are currently more millennials in the workforce than there are baby boomers, millennials are competing with peers of different ages and from a very different generation. But, like all younger workers, they want as many training and growth opportunities as possible. Research suggests that millennials (like the other generations) want to work for organisations that respect individual differences, promote work-life balance, pay well, and are socially responsible. 

With the increasing number of people putting off retirement and staying in work for longer, it is vital that HR continues to assess and consider current and future issues that employees may be facing. Supporting each generation and their specific needs can be a huge time constraint for management and bringing in an EAP will allow employers to assist individuals across all levels.

Each generation requires different levels of support and employers can pick and choose which elements will assist their entire workforce. Whether that includes on-site counselling for matures, or gamified apps to boost engagement by millennials.

The concept of age gaps in the workplace is not new, but there are now an abundance of tools and options available to employers to properly support each generation.


Patrick Williams, Clinical director, LifeWorks by Morneau Shepell.

Patrick Williams, Clinical director, LifeWorks by Morneau Shepell. A Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Certified Employee Assistance Professional (CEAP), Patrick Williams has over 25 years of clinical experience and motivational leadership. He specializes in workplace issues, helping employees learn how to balance their personal and professional stressors. His expertise is in stage of life concerns and educational initiatives to help employees manage their personal and professional relationships.

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