(L-R) Tonia Lee, Niema Cole, Sonya Markova
Millennials make up 35 percent of the global workforce, making them the largest segment in today’s workplace. Born between 1980 and 1996, they are often referred to as the “burnout” generation, as they report higher levels of anxiety and depression than their predecessors. There are many theories as to why millennials are so stressed out, including high student debt, the rising cost of living, the challenging job market, perfectionist tendencies, over-exposure to social media, and the postponement of key milestones like purchasing a home, getting married, and starting a family.
If millennials were struggling before 2020, how did they handle the unexpected workplace transition, social isolation, and surging unemployment associated with global lockdowns, not to mention the widespread fear of illness and death caused by COVID-19 itself?
Tonia Lee and Sonya Markova, who both work in Workplace Options’ London service center, say their office received an increase in requests in April and May for employee wellbeing support in hard hit industries like retail, arts and entertainment, and hospitality, which rely heavily on millennial workers. Unlike other businesses where employees may have an option to work remotely, most workers in these settings stopped working altogether. According to Lee, many employees went from buzzing social environments to complete social isolation in 48 hours or less.
Markova adds that millennials have reportedly struggled with emotional distress, low mood, disrupted sleep, and a lack of motivation due to stress associated with COVID-19. This can often translate into lower productivity and creativity. If left unchecked, the symptoms can potentially lead to anxiety issues and even depression.
A poll of US workers commissioned by Workplace Options revealed that younger workers, those between the ages of 18 and 29 years old, were more concerned than other generations, including those age 65 and older, about the return of COVID-19 later in the year.
Account manager Niema Cole, who is a millennial, adds that many friends and coworkers her age felt hopeless during lockdown and were very worried about the wellbeing of family members. Additionally, several shared that they experienced difficulty concentrating while working from home.
How Employers Can Help
Managers are encouraged to reach out to millennial team members on a weekly basis to check on their wellbeing. Rather than simply asking “How are you?” more specific questions, like those below, are recommended.
- What is your daily routine for work?
- What steps are you taking to shut off from work?
- Are you allowing time for breaks?
- Are you getting exercise?
- What are you doing to cope with the current situation?
- Is there anything we can support you with?
In addition, there are a number of ways managers can encourage social interaction and positive wellbeing for millennial staff members.
- Ask employees to share the positive takeaways that are surfacing for the team and company.
- Suggest taking breaks from news and social media.
- Challenge employees to try something new (ex. virtual yoga, online photography class, a new recipe) then report back to the team whether they would recommend it to others.
- Harness millennials’ enthusiasm for social causes by creating volunteer opportunities for the team—like delivering meals, providing telephone check-in calls to seniors, fostering pets, etc.
- Keep employees informed of work-related changes.
- Remind employees of any employer-sponsored resources that are available, including telephonic or virtual counselling and online wellbeing classes.
As companies re-open, managers should give special thought to how to best help millennials adjust to the new normal, which will be anything but normal as continued flux is anticipated. There are a number of steps managers can take to help their employees transition back to work.
- Maintain local government safety standards in the office. Depending on the country, this may include providing masks, hand sanitizer, and other protective equipment as needed.
- Allow for a gradual transition back to the work setting.
- Continue to promote self-care and check-in with employees regarding their wellbeing. Educate employees on any employer-sponsored financial, emotional, and physical wellbeing resources.
- Help build morale and reconnect staff by planning workplace social events.
- Seek to understand how team members weathered lockdown and how it is impacting their work. Workplace Options recently introduced the Adapt Questionnaire, an organizational resilience questionnaire and report which gives insight into employee and management experiences during quarantine and measures readiness for future changes.
On a positive note, studies show that millennials have embraced emotional wellbeing more than previous generations and are taking the lead in challenging mental health stigma. While they may struggle more than other employees, they are also more likely to take advantage of support when offered. The return-to-work transition is an excellent time for employers to provide millennials, and workers of all ages, with access to resources designed to address stress, anxiety, and burnout, as well as build resilience.
Workplace Options helps employees balance their work, family, and personal needs to become healthier, happier, and more productive, both personally and professionally. The company’s world-class employee support, effectiveness, and wellbeing services provide information, resources, referrals, and consultation on a variety of issues ranging from dependent care and stress management to clinical services and wellness programs. To learn more visit www.workplaceoptions.com.