Workplace well-being: How to thrive, not just survive

April 1, 2021 | 3 minute read
Emily He
SVP, HCM Marketing
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The pandemic is pushing people’s mental wellbeing to the limit, a new independent study, commissioned by Oracle, finds. Organizations urgently need to create employee assistance programs tailored to individuals’ best needs. 

People everywhere are hurting, and they want their employers to help. That’s the headline finding from “Mental Health at Work Requires Attention, Nuance, and Swift Action,” a report produced by research firm Workplace Intelligence and sponsored by Oracle.

As COVID-19 evolves, 78% of workers worldwide said the pandemic has negatively affected their mental health. Respondents report that stress and anxiety at work have affected family relationships and physical health. As workers rise to the many challenges created by the global crisis, they’ve become more fragile and more vulnerable. And if workers are to continue being productive, they need more support.

According to the study, Generation Z (Gen Z) reports the highest mental stress rates, with 89% saying the pandemic has negatively affected their mental health, followed closely by 83% of Millennials. By contrast, only 62% of Baby Boomers said that the pandemic had a noticeable, negative effect on their mental health.

Part of the reason for this deteriorating mental health may be because of overwork. As home and office blend into one, it can be difficult for workers to establish healthy boundaries between the two. Some 66% of Gen Z and 59% of Millennial workers, for example, reported working more hours per week than they did before the pandemic. And 94% of Gen Z workers and 89% of Millennials said their mental health issues at work affected their home life.

Stress and anxiety affecting workers worldwide

Make no mistake. These results reveal that mental health issues do not discriminate, and no-one is immune. Stress, anxiety, and uncertainty affect the lives of workers worldwide, regardless of where they live, the work they do, or the generation they were born.

The impact of stress was a theme picked up during a recent Oracle Workplace Well-being webinar broadcast to debate the study findings. Guest speaker Professor Sir Cary Cooper, CBE, Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health, University of Manchester, commented, “People are feeling insecure about their lives right now. They don’t know what the future holds. As a result, they’re stressed, anxious, and depressed all at the same time.”

The Professor’s advice? Well-being in the workplace starts with a fresh approach to line managers – from the shop floor to the top floor. “Too often, line managers are hired and rewarded on their technical skills, or what they deliver to the bottom line,” he said. “Managers who are proficient in softer people management skills, like emotional intelligence and their empathy, empower their people to take ownership of their mental health, improve their wellbeing, and boost their resilience.”

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Mental health programs need to be flexible enough to accommodate both workers who prefer human therapists and those who don’t, and those in immediate crisis and those requiring less urgent but necessary care. Importantly, organizations need to normalize asking for help across all seniority levels and ensure help is easily accessible.

Guest speaker Fearne Cotton – broadcaster, author, and founder of Happy Place –believes that leadership plays a vital role. She said, “When business leaders open up about their issues, it dispels the myth that they are invincible. When they speak about their own depression, anxiety, or other health issues, it shows we’re all in this together. Leaders also need to provide better guidance about working from home. People need to be told, ‘Disconnect. It’s family time now.”

Although a successful mental health program can’t be created overnight, technology can provide a good starting point, and workers welcome the assistance. According to the study, 62% of the workforce would prefer to speak to a robot about their mental health than their manager. Indeed, 80% of executives and 77% of HR leaders said that artificial intelligence (AI) has already helped their mental health at work.

Providing an array of support through human interaction and technology should help workers worldwide reduce stress and anxiety at work and ultimately create a more positive work culture for all.

You can read the full study report and view the webinar.

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Emily He

SVP, HCM Marketing

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