More than 7 in 10 small-company employees rated their mental health as good, compared to fewer than 6 in 10 employees at large companies.
Of those who worked in finance and insurance, 74.1% reported good mental health, ranking the highest of any industry.
Of those who worked in the medical and health care field, 14.5% reported poor mental health – the most of any industry.
Almost half of those rating their mental health as poor said they’re likely to look for a new job in the next six months (49.2%).
In order to improve their mental health at work, employees prioritized their personal time (46.4%), asked for flexible schedules (39.1%), and set clear boundaries with their employer (37.1%).
Considering how much time most people spend working, it’s important to ensure a work environment is as beneficial as possible to mental health. But what does that look like today? Which industries and jobs have the happiest employees? We asked 1,011 U.S. employees to rate their mental health, give insight about their work environments, and what their employers are doing to accommodate good mental health in the workplace.
How Workplace Factors Affect Mental Health
Overall, 65.8% of the employees surveyed reported having good mental health. Let’s take a look at who they are, what kind of work they do, and what their work environments are like.
The size and type of company that our survey respondents worked for proved to have a significant effect on their reported mental health. Employees of small companies (10 to 49 employees) seemed happiest with 72.5% rating their mental health as good. Meanwhile, only 59.8% of employees from large companies (250+ employees) said the same. When it came to the industries they worked in, the industry with the highest percentage of employees reporting good mental health was finance and insurance. Manufacturing came in at a close second.
Here’s how all the industries ranked among people reporting good mental health:
Finance and Insurance: 74.1%
Information Services and Data Processing: 60.5%
Medical and Health Care: 55.4%
While some people may be able to choose their company or industry, some factors are out of our control, including age. Significantly more Gen Z respondents (83.3%) reported good mental health, compared to 68.1% of millennials, 60.2% of Gen Xers, and only 54.1% of baby boomers. Different personality traits played a clear role as well, as 8 out of 10 extroverts rated their mental health as good, compared to only half of introverts.
No matter your generation or social tendencies, there are some things you may want to consider when looking for a job that will benefit your mental health. Environmental factors and work setting are important. Not surprisingly, people who worked mainly outdoors were much more likely to claim good mental health (82%) compared to those who worked mainly or partly indoors (56.3% and 61.9%, respectively). If working outdoors is not an option, exposure to more sunlight through an office window can help, or even suggesting some meetings be walk-and-talks. Those who worked exclusively from home were also 17% more likely than those working both remotely and on-site to say their mental health was good.
Protecting Mental Health at Work
It’s helpful to be aware of factors in a work environment that might negatively impact your mental health. We asked participants about the things that cause the most issues for them at work and how they handle them.
According to our respondents, the greatest challenge to mental health in the workplace is trying to maintain a good work-life balance (34.6%). Emotionally draining work was a close second, according to 33.8% of people.
Existing mental health issues also appeared to be a problem for many. Over 63% felt there was a social stigma attached to mental health in their workplace; this can dangerously reduce the likelihood of employees seeking treatment when they need it. However, mental health treatments can be essential in preventing burn-out, employee turnover, and also boost performances at work. Most people who reported mental health stigmatization worked for small companies (71.2%) versus large companies (47%). The majority were also millennials — 68.6% compared to only 44.3% of baby boomers. It is thus important to ensure that younger generations are encouraged to discuss their mental health at work, and for smaller companies to remove the stigma present around it.
While you can’t always control the environment you work in, there are things you can do to protect your mental health at work. We found that prioritizing personal time was the No. 1 tool for improving mental health, as advocated by 46.4% of respondents. Other top strategies included asking for schedule flexibility (39.1%), setting boundaries (37.1%), and asking for things when you need them (34.9%).
What Employers Can Do
While it’s important for an employee to advocate for themselves at work, there are also things employers can do to help foster a positive mental health environment.
One way to prevent stigmatization of mental health in the workplace is to create a culture that values open communication — a key aspect of any healthy workplace. One way to specifically do this is to make mental health literacy training mandatory for all employees and to ensure that managers and supervisors are trained to recognize signs of distress and encourage their employees to seek help. More than 33% of respondents who reported good mental health also said they felt comfortable discussing personal needs with their supervisor or manager. Millennials were the most likely to have discussed their mental health with their employer (74.5%), followed by Gen Zers (70%), baby boomers (63.9%), and Gen Xers (59%). Fewer women (66.7%) had done so compared to men (72.4%).
It’s in the hands of employers to make the workplace feel like a safe space to discuss mental health, and our survey suggests a few ways they can do that. One of the most obvious is simply for employers to show they have compassion for their employees, a measure currently in place for 32.5% of respondents with good mental health. Other perks deemed effective included offering flexible schedules (35.8%), regular communication with employees (31.7%), and allowing employees to choose their work location (30.1%). It’s also important to model good boundaries and mental health practices by implementing policies such as no emails after hours and days free of meetings. By ensuring that employees feel comfortable in separating their work from their private life, companies can prevent burned-out and stressed employees, and prevent employee turnover.
Shaping the Future of Work
If employers don’t pay attention to mental health issues in their workplace, there could be consequences. We asked participants how important mental health support at work is and what they’d sacrifice for it.
It seems that mental health support at work is valued highly, and many are willing to take a pay cut to get it. Overall, 51.5% of respondents said they were at least somewhat likely to do so. When answers were broken down by generation, 28.5% Gen Xers said they were somewhat likely to accept a job with lower pay in exchange for better mental health benefits, while 19.7% were somewhat unlikely to do so. Only 1 out of 4 baby boomers said they were somewhat unlikely to do the same, while 35.3% of them were somewhat likely to take the lower pay in exchange for better mental health benefits.
Nearly half of those rating their mental health as poor said they were likely to look for a new job in the next six months. According to respondents, 1 out of 5 millennials said they were extremely likely to change jobs due to the lack of mental health support offered by their current employer. On the other hand, only 1 out of 5 Gen Zers said they were somewhat unlikely to do the same, while 1 out of 7 were extremely likely to do so.
What to Look for in a Job
Whether or not organizations are ready for it, employees are becoming increasingly more concerned with how their work impacts their mental health. Younger generations are more likely to advocate for their mental health at work than previous generations, and they expect their employers to follow suit. After all, there is only so much an employee can do on their own to support themselves. It’s up to employers to foster a healthy culture that supports employees’ needs.
Allowing flexible schedules, showing compassion for their employees, or ensuring that employees are comfortable discussing their needs are only a few ways in which employers can support their teams, in addition to making employees feel valued, comfortable, and ensuring that their mental health is supported. For these reasons, it is also important to make sure that mental health is not stigmatized in the workplace, and that employees are given the resources and support they need to work in an ever-changing world.
As you search for your next job, remember one thing: if organizations want to keep their employees and attract new ones, they need to focus on the well-being of their workforce. Seek out organizations with a culture of open communication that promotes a healthy work-life balance and actively implements policies to support those values. Is the schedule flexible? Could you work from home some or all of the time? If not, does the workplace have windows and plenty of natural light? Don’t be afraid to ask questions!
This study uses data from a survey of 1,011 U.S. employees. Respondents were gathered through the Amazon Mechanical Turk survey platform where they were presented with a series of questions, including attention-check and disqualification questions. 56.2% of employees identified as men, while 43.7% identified as women, and less than 1% identified as nonbinary. Employees ranged in age from 19 to 74 with an average age of 37. 14% of employees were Gen Zers, 45.4% were millennials, 24.6% were Gen Xers, and 16% were baby boomers. Participants incorrectly answering any attention-check question had their answers disqualified.
Please note that survey responses are self-reported and are subject to issues, such as exaggeration, recency bias, and telescoping.
Fair Use Statement
We hope this study offers some useful tips for keeping your work life as healthy as possible. If you’d like to share these findings for any noncommercial purpose, please do and link back to this article to give credit to its contributors.