Supporting millennials at work

Forty per cent are ‘on edge’ but many don’t seek help they need from EFAPs

The dynamic of the traditional workplace is changing. Millennials — aged 18 to 34 — are entering the workforce with expectations that challenge the norm, causing employers to re-evaluate organizational practices and procedures.

One area employers might want to focus on is support programs. That’s because millennials, also known as generation Y, have emerged as the age bracket with the highest risk of mental health issues, according to a 2015 survey of 2,010 Canadians by Ipsos. The company’s Mental Health Index was created by understanding Canadians’ experiences concerning stress and depression over the last year.

More than one-half (53 per cent) of millennials classify as “high risk” — compared to 35 per cent of gen Xers (aged 35 to 54) and 14 per cent of baby boomers (aged 55+). 

Thirty per cent of millennials ranked their mental health overall as excellent, followed by 28 per cent both for “very good” and “good” and 10 per cent for “fair,” found the survey.

Separate 2015 research by Morneau Shepell’s Bill Howatt, chief research and development officer of workforce productivity, and the Globe and Mail found 40 per cent of millennials are “on edge” and only putting forward 70 per cent of their best work. 

If left untreated, this stress or anxiety could escalate into a more serious mental health issue.

EFAP support
Despite being perceived as tech-savvy and proactive in seeking support, millennials do not always make the best use of the support services provided by employers. 

Among people accessing Morneau Shepell’s employee and family assistance program (EFAP), only 22.1 per cent are millennials. 

Comparatively, 51.4 per cent of those accessing the EFAP are generation Xers (aged 34 to 49) and 26.1 per cent are baby boomers (aged 50 to 68).

In looking at the average percentage of generation Y clients over the last three years accessing Morneau Shepell’s EFAP, 14.8 per cent are dealing with stress, 20 per cent are dealing with depression, 23 per cent are dealing with anxiety and 31.3 per cent have mental health concerns.

But when millennials do seek out support, the outcome is good. Forty-two per cent report an improvement in their ability to do their job all the time; 44 per cent report an improvement half the time; and 67 per cent report an improvement most of the time, found Morneau Shepell.

Tips for engaging millennials
For organizations looking to combat the stigma surrounding millennials and to increase the mental well-being of employees, employers should do the following:

Increase awareness of support programs: Promote mental health in the workplace by encouraging employees to make use of their EFAP.

Offer flexibility: Millennials are typically discouraged by the nine-to-five work schedule. Encourage employees to work from home when necessary, create their own hours within the confines of their job requirements and seek educational or professional development opportunities.

Motivate millennials through frequent feedback and access to leadership:
To be productive in a working environment, millennials need to address goals and create a plan of action to achieve them. 

Equip the organization with the latest technologies: Use up-to-date technology to create new organizational strategies appealing to the work style of millennials — varying from training procedures to business operations.

Create cross-functional teams: Millennials are inspired by collaboration. Provide opportunities for employees to work with people external to their day-to-day working groups and solve issues outside their areas of responsibility. 

Stephen Liptrap is executive vice-president at Morneau Shepell and general manager at Shepell in Toronto. For more information, visit

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