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What Millennial and Gen-Z Workers Are Looking for From Employers For the Millennial and Gen-Z workforce, mental health is of the utmost importance.

By Lucas Miller Edited by Maria Bailey

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

According to research from SAMSHA, roughly one in three adults aged 18 to 25 experienced mental illness in 2020. Adults aged 26 to 49 also experienced high levels of mental illness, at 25.3%.

Both numbers indicate an ongoing trend — a noteworthy increase in the level of mental illness experienced by young adults over the last several years. The news isn't all bad, however. Even as levels of mental illness have increased, so too has the public's willingness to discuss these issues in a more open and transparent manner.

This is also true in the workplace. In fact, an employer's commitment to the mental health of its employees has become an increasingly important consideration, particularly for millennial and Gen Z workers.

What the Great Resignation reveals about work and mental health

While pay has been the top reason for millennials and Gen Zers to leave their jobs during the Great Resignation, the number two reason was that their workplace was detrimental to their mental health. In fact, 46% of Gen Zers and 45% of millennials cited feeling burned out because of work as their top reason for quitting. Another survey from Engage Group found that 89% of people who quit their jobs cited burnout as one of their reasons for leaving.

The Covid-19 pandemic's impact on healthcare professionals is a clear example of this. One study found that 23% of emergency healthcare workers had depression or anxiety and over 39% experienced burnout that was directly related to an "adverse working environment" that also had poor organizational support. That stress can have a dramatic negative impact on someone's well-being.

As a blog post from Confidant Health explains, "People who experience anxiety disorders feel intrusive feelings of fear. They may be mild or intense but will occur most days of the week for six months or more. These fears become so overwhelming that they interfere with the person's ability to function. As a result, the quality of relationships, social activities and overall satisfaction with life decline."

Indeed, pandemic-induced stress caused many people to adopt unhealthy coping mechanisms, with Harvard research determining that increased drinking "will result in 8,000 additional deaths from alcohol-related liver disease, 18,700 cases of liver failure, and 1,000 cases of liver cancer by 2040." A toxic office environment can similarly lead to such unhealthy habits.

As this reveals, a stressful work environment that negatively impacts an individual's mental health can eventually harm their entire quality of life. It should come as no surprise that workers who value their mental and emotional health are choosing to leave employers that don't value their well-being.

Related: Why Your Mental Health Is the Key to Your Success in Business

So, what do employees want?

Yes, Millennial and Gen Z workers want to receive higher pay. But unlike older generations, they also want mental health to be a priority in the workplace. The question is: How do employers offer mental health assistance?

Much of it begins by providing a proper work-life balance that lets employees get a break from the demands of the working environment. This can be challenging when hybrid working environments sometimes create an "always on" mentality. But leaders should respect their employees' time off — and ensure that time out of the office is truly providing a break from work.

Leaders must also make it a priority to eliminate any toxicity from their office environment. Office bullying, favoritism and not recognizing employees for their accomplishments are just a few factors that can create a toxic work culture. When employees don't feel valued (or even feel oppressed) at work, their performance will suffer — and they will be quick to leave.

Improved mental health and wellness support should also be a priority. Notably, one survey found that 87% of employers plan to enhance medical health benefits by 2024, with mental health being a key area of focus. Expanding healthcare benefits and assistance programs to improve access to mental healthcare can go a long way in helping employees who need care. Many businesses are also introducing mental health days that allow employees to take paid time off to focus on their mental and emotional well-being.

Rather than resist these changes, employers should consider them in a similar light to physical ailments. An employer wouldn't have qualms about letting an employee take a sick day to recover from sickness or injury. Employers who take a similar, fair-minded approach to mental health needs will become much more appealing to Millennial and Gen Z workers.

Related: 3 Workplace Habits Every Entrepreneur Needs to Survive the 'New Normal'

Creating a healthier work environment

The mental and emotional well-being of your employees can be influenced by many factors — including their job. As the place where people spend so many of their waking hours, what happens in the office can have a direct impact on mental health. This makes it more important than ever for employers to not only create a healthy office environment but also to partner with digital mental health services to improve employee well-being and satisfaction.

Millennial and Gen-Z workers are increasingly willing to leave a toxic or unhealthy work environment to protect their mental well-being. As employers take steps to create a positive culture and work-life balance, as well as actively acknowledge mental health needs, they will create a better working environment that ultimately benefits everyone.

Lucas Miller

Founder of Echelon Copy LLC

Lucas Miller is the founder and CEO of Echelon Copy LLC, a media relations agency based in Provo, Utah that helps brands improve visibility, enhance reputation and generate leads through authentic storytelling.

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