'This is the first time I've seen this big of a gap between the reality that workers and employers perceive'
Employees and employers do not seem to agree on their assessment of employer support for workers' mental health.
Asked to rank their organization's support for mental health on a scale of one to 10, employees give an average rating of 4.4 — an "F" on the corresponding academic grading scale, according to a report from Lighthouse Research & Advisory and LifeSpeak.
Employers, however, rated themselves at 7.6, with HR professionals grading their company a slightly higher 7.8 and senior company leaders in non-HR roles averaging 7.2.
These scores are equivalent to a “C.”
“In the 10 years I've been doing research on employer priorities, this is the first time I've seen this big of a gap between the reality that workers and employers perceive,” says Ben Eubanks, chief research officer at Lighthouse. “When analyzed in aggregate, the data from this research indicates that employers are trying to implement solutions to support mental health needs for the workforce, but the reality is these efforts aren't being seen, felt and received by many of the workers they are meant to support.”
More than two-thirds (68 per cent) of employed Canadians feel their employer has supported their mental health amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an earlier report from Canada Life.
Mixed opinions on mental health
While 58 per cent of employers said they made significant positive changes to their mental health and wellbeing support over the past 18 months, only 46 per cent of workers agree, finds the survey of more than 1,000 employers and 1,000 employees in the U.S.
Nearly two-thirds (64 per cent) of employees cited flexible work schedules as the best method to improve employee health and wellbeing — but only 46 per cent of employers say the same.
As for talking about mental health, 60 per cent of employees say they would be comfortable discussing their mental health and wellbeing in front of a colleague or boss, compared to 75 per cent of employers who say people at their company would be comfortable in that situation.
Many Canadian workers say they feel unsafe to talk about mental health at work, according to a previous report from Sun Life.
Solutions for mental health
Despite this, employers and employees had identical responses when asked about the benefits if positive mental health support, including:
- higher productivity
- better overall performance
- greater satisfaction and engagement
- being less likely to leave the job
- making it easier to recruit new talent/recommend job to friends
- fewer sick days
Nearly half of all employees say mental health support would make them less likely to leave a job (49 per cent) and more likely to recommend a job to a friend (48 per cent).
Also, 64 per cent of employees cite flexible work schedules as the best method for improving employee mental health, with 71 per cent saying the ability to access mental health support at a place and time that’s convenient to them would make mental health benefits more appealing.
"Employers around the globe that truly want to make an impact in their employees' lives — and in their business — by improving mental health need to invest in solutions that will be used by those who need them. Companies need to embrace a culture of acceptance and support for mental health while heeding the call for flexibility and confidentiality,” says Michael Held, CEO and founder of LifeSpeak.
For those employees who have not yet taken steps to address their mental health but would like to, 30 per cent say affordability of care is the greatest barrier, according to an earlier report from LifeWorks.