Mental Health in Young Workers – is This on the Agenda For Your business?

Why Prioritise the Mental Health of Your Young Employees?

There has been a great deal of recent media attention on mental health, especially in young people – and rightly so.  This has especially been the case over the past year, when COVID-19 and remote working have had such an impact on everyone,  and the subsequent focus on how these events have affected mental health. 

An article I read by Barbara Harvey, an MD at Accenture Research,  shortly before the pandemic last year,  about supporting the mental health of young people entering the workplace really resonated with me: 

https://hbr.org/2020/01/young-workers-need-companies-to-prioritize-mental-health

It seems of fundamental importance that businesses take the mental health of their new joiners and emerging talent seriously. The world of work, always challenging, has become even more so over the last year. Those at the early stages of their careers are our leaders of the future and so ensuring we have a healthy, happy and robust pipeline of talent able to take on the professional and environmental challenges of a post-Brexit, post-Covid landscape is a bit of a no-brainer.

What Are the Challenges in the 2021 Workplace?

In the Coaching and mentoring work I do, I come across several recurring themes that this strata of the workforce talk about. Issues include:

  • Imposter syndrome
  • How to balance a burgeoning career with family life
  • Caring responsibilities / creating a manageable life balance
  • Financial pressures – student loan debt, house purchase affordability, lack of savings and investment
  • Anxiety around business imperatives such as business development, networking, dealing with confrontation
  • Career management, how to make a positive impact, developing your personal ‘brand’
  • And now of course, the social isolation many have faced, and the challenge of starting a new job remotely 
  • Making an impact in a virtual world

Unique Pressures Faced By Gen Y and Z

Of course, some these issues are not new and those of us who have been in the workplace for some years will have come across variations on these themes many times over. However, I think that there are added pressures on this generation’s shoulders, not least that they can expect to experience a much longer working life, non-linear career paths and quite possibly a number of changes of career direction throughout their working lives. Then there the is the relentless nature of social media which means you are constantly on-call. This all through the lens of an uncertain world.

Ideas to Tackle Mental Health in Young People – What Can You Do?

Harvey’s article suggests 3 key actions that can be taken to help tackle this issue. I would agree that all of these are relevant.

To these, I would add:

  • Introducing 1-to-1 coaching programmes at a much earlier stage of career development. Historically, Coaching has been seen as the preserve of senior or board level executives, but I would argue that introducing coaching at a much earlier stage would provide young employees with a safe space to discuss and find solutions to issues that are concerning them. Harnessing technology to deliver on-line coaching programmes can make such initiatives more widely accessible and cost-effective.
  • Establishing and supporting networking groups, discussion groups, industry related forums and events – anything that will encourage people new to the workplace to establish networks with their peers and extend their connections in ‘real-life’. This is becoming increasingly important in the current climate.
  • Mentoring schemes within organisations, including upward-mentoring. These encourage 2-way knowledge sharing and break down barriers in a multi-generational workplace. I am always amazed at the lack of communication that can exist within businesses and sharing ideas and encouraging positive communication amongst all employees has got to be one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways of fostering open and healthy dialogue amongst colleagues.

The Importance of Looking Close to Home

The fact that so many people in the public eye are prepared to speak up about their own mental health challenges – from royalty to sports stars and celebrities – has got to be a good thing. However, it’s important that we whilst we appreciate their candour, we don’t forget to look closer to home and recognise that our colleagues and co-workers might be labouring under similar challenges. We can’t applaud those in the public eye if we don’t extend the same support and kindness to those we work with. 

My Challenge to You…

So my challenge is this: What could be the one action you could take to help support a younger colleague who might be facing a mental health challenge?

If you would like to discuss any of these issues for yourself or your team, please contact me: liz@lizwattcoaching.co.uk

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