Poor mental health costs a bomb to the companies. At the same time, research clearly shows that for every $1 invested in mental health intervention in the workplace, companies can save $2-$4 in expenses. In this article, Canadian Author and Millennial author/speaker Troy Samuel Logan, a millennial himself, elucidates how mental health will be an intrinsic part of future of work when it comes to millennial workers, who will soon form 75% of the total global workforce.
With millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) projected to be 75% of the workforce by 2025, anxiety and depression are projected to cost the global economy US$1 trillion in lost productivity annually1. The future of work is welcoming the current trend of more than 2/3 of employees from around the world telecommuting—working away from the office—at least once per week2.
Organizations that allow employees to telecommute have 25% less staff turnover than employers that restrict working away from the office3. Further, 29% of employees say that working from home improves their mental health4 and 90% of employees who telecommute plan on doing so for the remainder of their careers5.
Companies are seeking best practices to invest in their talent’s interests to achieve the double bottom line of: positive social impact and increased financial profit. This being said, 71% of millennials who strongly agree that they know what their organization stands for and what makes their company different compared to competitors plan to stay with their employer for at least one year6.
Multinational technology company Microsoft experimented with their Japanese team members by instituting a four-day work week and observed that productivity increased by 40%7.
Leadership in the future of work can learn from the late chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente, Bernard Tyson Johnson, who championed improving the global health care system. Johnson hosted a mental health and wellness summit at the 2019 World Economic Forum8 that focused on four pillars: 1) reducing the stigma of mental health by encouraging open dialogue; 2) tackling inequity in mental health care; 3) moving from sick care to well care by focusing on prevention; and 4) integrating mental health services into primary care systems.Employees spend most of their waking hours at work and evidence based treatments show that for every $1 invested in mental health intervention in the workplace, companies can save $2-$4 in expenses9. The business case is clear: a company that prioritizes mental health increases their organization’s chances of being a leader in their respective industry’s ecosystem.
By the end of 2020, 80% of countries are expected to develop policies and procedures for mental health that are in line with international human rights standards—with 50% of countries at the same time expected to update their laws to ensure mental health best practices are in alignment with international human rights standards10.
Still, research shows that 50% of millennials have left their roles voluntarily for mental health reasons11. Consequently, companies that fail to invest in the mental health of their workforce run the risk of their organization unsuccessfully navigating the future of work.
Millennials are ensuring that mental health is a key performance indicator for the future of work across the globe. In the United Kingdom for example, employers believe that 38% of millennials undergo pressure due to an uncertainty of the future12. In the United States, approximately 70% of employees believe their employers are not doing enough to alleviate burnout at work—and 84% of millennials expressed that they experienced burnout on the job13.
With mental health affecting approximately 1.1 billion people around the world annually, research indicates that 80% of mental health disorders are recorded in low/middle-income countries14. As a result, mental health conditions have been predicted to increase by 130% in sub-Saharan Africa by the year 2050. Additionally, a 2017 World Health Organization study indicated that 18% of global depression cases came from India15, where 67% of Indian employees shared that they were forced to think about work while on leave16.
As an older millennial myself, I have witnessed the dot-com bubble burst in the early 2000’s and my formative years coincided in and around the 2008 economic crisis. Millennials are resilient. With access to unlimited information via a Wi-Fi connection and preferred choice of wireless device, millennials are the first generation to both identify and address issues on a global scale via socially conscious tech-based innovative solutions.
As such, a millennial can be described as a “clicktivist”—defined by University of Toronto’s Sarah Kaplan in her book The 360° Corporation. A clicktivist is an activist who uses social media to hold an organization or representative of said organization accountable. Furthermore, in the same space where companies recruit—84% of companies use social media to find talent17–potential employees are assessing companies via peer review platforms like Glassdoor to determine if a business aligns with their values before applying for a position.
Also known as digital natives, millennials believe the top three drivers of business transformation over the next three years will be: 1) artificial intelligence (AI), cognitive computing, and machine learning; 2) Internet of Things (IoT); and 3) 5G network technology18. In fact, across the globe, millennials are 1.3 times more likely than previous generations to say artificial intelligence will assist them to be more productive in completing daily tasks at work19.Interestingly, while 70% of employees use artificial intelligence in their personal lives (streaming video; transportation; banking; dating), only 24% use AI at work20. KPMG reports that by 2022, at least 54% of employees will require significant reskilling / upskilling21 to successfully navigate the future of work. To drive this point home, LinkedIn reported that 94% of employees will stay at a company longer if the organization invested in helping them learn22.
On the one hand, countries are excited about the future of work and the possibility of economic prosperity associated with technological advancement in the workplace. On the other hand, digital transformation requires a country’s population to learn new skills at a rapid rate in order for a respective nation to successfully compete on the global stage—and this can have an adverse impact on the mental health of employees if mental health first aid is not built into the organizational culture of a company.
Millennials are helping to shape a narrative that allows mental health to be an intrinsic part of future of work discussions. By 2035, India is expected to have the largest workforce in the world, accounting for almost 65% of the country’s population23. And in major cities across India, 74% of millennials are optimistic about the future of the economy despite the current economic slowdown24.
Harvard University reported that between 2012 and 2030, mental health challenges can slow productivity and have a financial impact costing China more than US$9 trillion and over US$2 trillion in India25.
Rajendra Srivastava, Dean of the Indian School of Business shared that upwards of 80% of new hires in multinational management positions will come from Indian and China26. India is investing in Education 4.0 – preparing students for future jobs by transforming the existing curriculum and providing integrative-disciplinary courses27. Global leaders are paying attention to the data on mental health in order to equip their teams with strategies to achieve work-life integration for the future of work.
65% of children entering primary school today will have jobs that do not yet exist28.
No single institution is responsible for addressing the global issue of mental health as we embrace the future work. According to research, 41% of people believe job preparation for the future workforce is the individual’s responsibility; 33% believe this is the responsibility of employers; 16% believe higher educational institutions are responsible; and 9% believe this is the responsibility of government29.
As a Canadian born in Toronto, I am grateful that inter-sectoral strategic collaboration is at the forefront of addressing mental health while placing emphasis on diversity, inclusion, and equity. With 20% of Canada’s working age population currently living with a mental health condition, this reality is projected to cost the Canadian economy $88.8 billion by 202130.
The collective impact goals of leaders from across various industries in society serve as a reminder that the future of work requires various voices to create innovative solutions.
The University of Toronto’s Task Force on Mental Health, chaired by the Faculty of Medicine Dean Trevor Young31, is dedicated to ensuring that talent entering the workplace is prepared for the future of work by adopting a plan that: a) reviews supports and services for students; b) invests in learning about cultures; c) forges partnerships between senior administrators and health care system stakeholders; and d) engages government32.
With the evolution of the workforce, employers across every industry need to pay attention to the attitudes, feelings, and thoughts of their employees and future staff members. To my point, 72% of CEOs believe the state of empathy in the workplace needs to evolve33. In turn, 91% of CEOs believe empathy is directly linked to a company’s financial performance34. And, 93% of employees say they are more likely to stay with an empathetic employer35.
Deloitte’s 2019 millennial survey listed 20 challenges facing society concerning respondents on a personal level, and climate change/protecting the environment/natural disasters topped the list at 29%36. To describe the state of millennials, Deloitte noticed a “palpable deterioration in optimism…and…anxieties weighing on their minds.”
When 25 year old New Zealand lawmaker Chloe Swarbrick was heckled by an older colleague for highlighting the importance of addressing climate change, she responded with “OK, Boomer37.”
Upon learning about Scwarbrick’s rejoinder, Myrna Blyth, senior vice president and editorial director of AARP (formerly American Association of Retired Persons) published the following rebuttal “Okay, millennials, but we’re the people that actually have the money.”
While Boomers grew up in a time where they could save 15% of their income to enjoy retirement, millennials realize that they will need to save a minimum of 40% of their earnings over the next 30 years to enjoy retirement38.
Today, millennial consumer spending totals $1 trillion—with 73% of this cohort saying they would spend more on sustainable products39. Although millennials will spend their disposable income on goods, products, and services that reflect their cultural-social lifestyle, 78% of this generation is concerned about having a good-paying job in the future of work40.
The mental health concerns of millennials across the globe will remain front and center for the next few decades as this generational cohort aims solve problems in the marketplace with all stakeholders in the future of work.
About the author
Troy Samuel Logan is an older millennial author and speaker located in Toronto, Canada and helps to reconcile intergenerational differences in the multigenerational workforce. With a focus on the future of work, Troy is currently pursuing a degree in Business & Society, Business Ethics and Social Responsibility at York University with a focus on organizational development and transformation. The title of Troy’s forthcoming book is MILLENNIALS: Minorities, Diversity, and Inclusion for Non-profit, Corporate, and Government Industries.