Work is the main source of mental health strain in 2023

Despite widespread awareness and vocal support for mental health in the workplace, things just aren’t getting better for employees. 

Calm Business recently conducted their annual Workplace Mental Health trends survey, and found that more than half of respondents reported feeling anxious and stressed and have trouble sleeping. The reason behind their monkey-mind brains? Work. 

Forty-two percent of respondents said challenges at work are the top reasons they seek mental health support, followed by personal illness, dealing with the illness of a family member, losing a loved one, and dealing with financial stress

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“The data is clear: workplace stress is a leading driver of mental health challenges for people in the U.S.,” says David Ko, CEO of Calm. “This has to change. And to make change, we as leaders and employers have to be acutely aware of our employees’ diverse experiences and the impact it has on how they show up to work.” 

Read more: Long story short: Make 2023 the year you attain work-life balance

Employees have a hard time leaving their work stress to just the 9-to-5: 50% said stress also impacts their relationships with family, friends and themselves. And while work causes their stress, employees aren’t convinced they’re doing enough to solve it. Calm data found that while 67% think employers should be responsible for providing mental health support, just 32% said their employer offers mental health programs and benefits. 

To better support workers, it’ll take more than benefits — employees want managers to be trained in mindful and empathetic leadership practices. Forty percent say managers should be trained to be more self-aware, better able to regulate emotions, and reduce stress in their work environment. 

Beyond that, employees say they want wellness stipends and PTO days to help them prioritize tending to their mental health. Thirty-seven percent of employees would like technology solutions that address sleep and stress issues. 

“Employers need to develop mental health strategies that respond [to employees],” Ko says. “Our mission with Calm Business is to be a partner to employers as they build these strategies — providing them effective mental health resources and tools to center mental health in their workplaces.”

Read more: 8 low-cost apps to help employees manage their mental health

Yet even for employees who are managing their stress well, the mental health of their family can take a toll. A quarter of respondents said they’ve noticed their kids are feeling depressed or hopeless all the time. A quarter of parents have missed work to take care of their children’s mental health needs. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, women are more likely than men to be consumed with their child’s mental well-being, leading to greater stress for themselves. While 50% of women say they think about their children’s mental health while they’re working, 33% of men admit to being concerned. Forty percent of women say they take care of their mental health less now that they have children, compared to 30% of men. 

There may be a silver lining for employees when it comes to the work arrangements organizations offer. Calm found that hybrid workers are the most able to manage their stress and prioritize selfcare, followed by those who work in the office full-time. Work-from-home employees were the least likely to say they felt happy, due to increased loneliness. 

“From navigating new remote or hybrid office structures to supporting employees through significant global events, we have been required to rethink how we lead and build strong workplace cultures,” says Scott Domann, Calm’s chief people officer. “As we enter a new year, people and benefit leaders need to address these blind spots to ensure our entire workforce feels heard, supported and represented in their workplace mental health benefits.”

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