Most employees say their mental health has declined or plateaued in past year

Despite a focus on workforce mental health programs, employees aren’t necessarily feeling better, according to Calm’s Voice of the Workplace Report.

Overall, 69% of employees said their mental health has stayed the same or worsened during the past year, and 81% said they’ve struggled with nervousness, anxiousness and stress recently.

In addition, 61% said they’ve felt down, depressed or hopeless during the past month, and 68% said they’ve had trouble falling asleep during the past month.

“In the past few years, HR leaders around the world have made huge strides in supporting the mental health of employees and their families,” according to the report. “In short, you’ve done the critical work of laying a strong foundation for employee mental health […] Now it’s time to build on that foundation to accelerate positive change and results.”

In a survey of 4,000 employees and 150 HR and benefits leaders, nearly 60% of global workers agree they’re always connected or available for work. For more than 40%, this constant pressure to be always available contributes to their mental health decline. In addition, over half are worried about the rapid pace of technology developments in their workplace, and a third think AI tools will contribute negatively to employee well-being.

Managers can contribute to both the problem and the solution, the Calm report showed. About 65% of employees said managers significantly influence their mental health, whether positively or negatively. Only 38% said their manager fosters a low-stress work environment, and 54% said their manager has a negative or neutral impact on their mental health.

Among managers, a little over half feel confident having mental health conversations with their employees. In addition, managers said their top stressor is balancing their tasks with the team’s performance and supporting employee mental health.

Gen Z workers seem to be struggling the most with anxiety and depression, but they’re also leading the way to change. They were most likely to say their manager has a negative impact on their well-being, but they also feel more equipped to have conversations about mental health and are more likely to advocate for benefits. 

Calm recommended supplementing existing employee assistance programs with preventive resources, reducing stigma to boost usage of mental health benefits and cultivating managers who care.

In some cases, managers may influence a worker’s mental health more than therapists or doctors and have the same impact as spouses or partners, according to a report from the UKG Workplace Institute. This work stress negatively affects an employee’s home life, well-being and relationships.

In fact, 40% of workers feel stress or anxiety about work due to first-time managers who seem unprepared to lead, according to an Oji Life Lab report. This often leads to a lack of motivation, sleep issues and retention problems, employees said, which could be remedied through leadership training. Workers said their managers needed better skills in reducing conflict, providing quality feedback and making decisions.

About 62% of workers believe employers aren’t doing enough to combat stress at work, according to a Robert Walters Group survey. The top triggers for workplace stress included stability concerns, managerial pressure and heavier workloads.