US workers under lockdown three times more likely to report mental health issues

According to a recent survey of more than 1,500 US based respondents, workers are now three times more likely to report poor mental health than they were before the pandemic. The study also claims that seventy-five percent of people have experienced burnout at work, with 40 percent saying they’ve experienced burnout during the pandemic specifically. The report suggests that this is not surprising, given that 37 percent of employed respondents are currently working longer hours than usual since the pandemic started.

However, just 21 percent said 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. This survey was conducted by FlexJobs, fielded in partnership with Mental Health America (MHA) in late July 2020.

Key findings:

  • Employed workers are more than three times as likely to report poor mental health now vs before the pandemic. Before the pandemic, 5 percent of currently employed workers said their mental health was poor or very poor. That number has now jumped to 18 percent.
  • Before the pandemic, 7 percent of currently unemployed workers said their mental health was poor or very poor. That number has now jumped to 27 percent.
  • 42 percent of those employed and 47 percent of those unemployed say their stress levels are currently high or very high.
  • Top stressors include COVID-19, personal finances, current events, concern over their family’s health, the economy, and job responsibilities.
  • More than three-quarters (76 percent) agreed that workplace stress affects their mental health (i.e., depression or anxiety), and 17 percent strongly agreed.
  • Only about half (51 percent) of workers agreed that they had the emotional support they need at work to help manage their stress.


The need for flexibility

Having flexibility in their workday (56 percent) was overwhelmingly listed as the top way their workplace could better support them. Encouraging time off and offering mental health days were tied for 2nd and 3rd at 43 percent. Increased PTO and better health insurance were the next top ways to offer support (28 percent).

“One of the most important things remote workers can do is to set clear boundaries between their work time and non-work time, and HR needs to take an active role in helping workers practice healthy boundaries between their professional and personal lives,” said Carol Cochran, VP of People & Culture at FlexJobs. “Offering flexible scheduling to employees can have a dramatic impact on reducing burnout, since rigid work schedules usually magnify conflict between work and family, leading workers to mental exhaustion. Most importantly, leaders should strive to create a healthy company culture that values the individual as a person, and prioritizes the overall wellness of its workers,” Cochran recommended.

“Company leadership, including executives, HR, and management, have a responsibility to their employees to model and talk openly about behaviors that reduce stress, prevent burnout, and help employees establish the appropriate boundaries when working remotely,” said Paul Gionfriddo, President and CEO at MHA. “Offering flexibility during the workday, encouraging employees to use their PTO when they need a vacation, and providing time off for employees to tend to their mental health can help employees at all levels of a company cope with COVID-19 and other stressors.”

Survey respondents said they would also be open to attending virtual mental health solutions if they were offered through their workplace, such as:

  • Meditation sessions (45 percent)
  • Healthy eating classes (38 percent)
  • Virtual workout classes (37 percent)
  • Desktop yoga (32 percent)
  • Webinars about mental health topics (31 percent)

Image by Myriam Zilles