To attract and retain young talent, employers 'must provide easily accessible mental wellness resources'
While mental health benefits are important to workers these days, there’s a generational divide that exists when it comes to how workers perceive these kinds of supports.
Overall, 62 per cent of workers have used at least one mental health benefit that their employers offer, reports Securian Financial, a provider of group life and supplemental health insurance benefits.
However, the use of these benefits is far more common among younger millennials (76 per cent), generation Z workers (73 per cent) and older millennials (72 per cent) than among gen X (58 per cent) employees and baby boomers (49 per cent).
Most gen Z (65 per cent), younger millennials (60 per cent) and older millennials (59 per cent) also say that it’s very important that their employer provides mental wellness resources and benefits. These numbers are comparably lower among gen X (49 per cent) and boomers (45 per cent).
“Mental wellness benefits are crucial for every generation. But because these benefits are expected from gen Z and millennials, employers should recognize that to attract and retain young talent, they must provide easily accessible mental wellness resources,” says Darin Reeser, a Securian Financial regional director for supplemental health benefits.
Workers from different generations also have different levels of awareness of mental health supports available to them at work. Gen Z workers (46 per cent) are very aware about the mental wellness resources that their employers offer, followed by younger (43 per cent) and older millennials (40 per cent). Gen X workers (35 per cent) and boomers (34 per cent) come at the end of the list.
From 2019 to 2021, the volume of mental disorder drug claims among those aged below 30 rose by 24 per cent, according to Sun Life, based on company data.
Barriers to access
It seems old habits is the enemy, finds Securian Financial’s survey of over 2,500 workers from different age groups.
While 67 per cent of all workers say they don’t feel they need any mental health services that their employers offer, this is far more common among boomers (77 per cent) and gen X (67 per cent) workers, compared with older (63 per cent) and younger millennials (55 per cent) and gen Z worker (41 per cent).
“I was raised in a family where we don’t share what we are thinking, and we just move on. It’s a hard concept to change in your later years,” says one baby boomer survey participant.
But this does not mean younger workers always find it easy accessing mental health supports, according to Securian’s report titled Mental Wellness Benefits: Barriers to Access, Exploring key barriers to utilization of mental wellness resources for full-time employees.
For example, gen Z workers are far more likely to have the following barriers to accessing these benefits:
- They don’t have enough time in the day to access the benefits (21 per cent among gen Z versus 4 per cent among boomers)
- They are concerned about the cost (30 per cent among gen Z versus 5 per cent among boomers)
- They are not sure how to access these benefits (24 per cent among gen Z versus 2 per cent among boomers)
- Their role does not provide them the flexibility to step away to access available supports (15 per cent among gen Z versus 2 per cent among boomers)
Nearly all (97 per cent) of 18-34-year-olds are burned out, according to a previous report from Cigna, a global health service company.
“Addressing mental wellness in the workplace has never been more crucial. With burnout and the Great Resignation still in our midst, better understanding employee needs, expectations and concerns around mental wellness is pivotal,” says Reeser.
For employers to meet workers’ mental health needs, they must start the conversation, says Mandie Conforti, senior director of employer and EAP strategy at Spring Health.
“You can change your employees’ lives by advocating for the mental health support they need, building a plan to implement that support, embracing diverse ideas and perspectives, and always leading with empathy,” she says.