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Attention Employers: Lots of Your Workers Say Their Job Is Bad For Their Mental Health

A desk is populated with a laptop, glasses, coffee and a portable hard drive. A green pillow sits on a chair.
Working from home can be a blessing and a curse.
(Djurdjica Boskovic on Unsplash)
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American workers are feeling stressed, burnt out, and generally mentally unhealthy.

According to a Gallup poll from this summer, about one-fifth of U.S. workers said their mental health was “fair” or “poor.”

Employees who reported difficulties with their mental health had about four times more unplanned absences from work than colleagues who said their mental health was good or better.

“There’s ample evidence from many, many different studies and sources that taking care of your workforce actually does improve your profitability and longevity as an organization,” Johns Hopkins senior scientist Ron Goetzel said during a conversation on workplace mental health organized by the National Press Foundation this week.

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According to Gallup research, four out of 10 U.S. workers say their job has a “somewhat” or “extremely” negative effect on their mental health.

This comes at a time when many people are still working from home some or all of the time due to the COVID-19 pandemic and often miss out on the camaraderie that comes with seeing your work friends in the office.

Goetzel said his research has shown that workers who could work from home reported being more productive initially: no commute, more flexibility with childcare, flexible hours. But many managers have yet to strike the right balance for hybrid schedules that allow employees to come into the office some of the time, Goetzel said.

“I think the problem has been that in a hybrid situation, people come into the office and then they sit in front of their computer doing Zoom calls,” he said.

Goetzel recommends better organization on the part of managers so that workers are coming into the office for group activities, structured in-person meetings or social activities.

Rich Mattingly, founder of the LuvU Project which gives out awards to companies supporting mental health in the workplace, said the C-suite needs to be willing to invest in mental health if a company wants a happy, more productive workforce.

“With the generation that’s coming into the workforce that’s going to be running the place ... you see their mentality embracing that,” Mattingly said.

What questions do you have about mental health in SoCal?
One of my goals on the mental health beat is to make the seemingly intractable mental health care system more navigable.

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