Mental Health Check

New research shows the advantages of offering well-being benefits to the multigenerational workforce.

By Wendy Edgar

The rise of the multigenerational workforce brings a variety of opportunities for organizations and employees alike, especially when it comes to benefits offerings. What’s more, amid the current COVID-19 pandemic, people are looking to their companies for tools and resources to support their lives both inside and outside of work.

In an effort to better understand benefit preferences and how offerings resonate across generations, Ernst & Young LLP (EY US) conducted a survey of 1,000 employed Americans and 1,000 undergraduate college students. While the Better You research was completed before the current crisis, one thing was clear: Dedicated emotional well-being programs are significant priorities for professionals and students alike.

In light of increased interest and demand, there is an opportunity for HR leaders to provide new offerings to employees to help them better understand and manage their health and overall well-being. In both times of economic prosperity and times of uncertainty, it’s equally important that employees are equipped with knowledge and resources to encourage them to meet their full potential.

However, the research found that nearly one-third (29 percent) of the employed workforce is not taking full advantage of their company’s benefits offerings. What’s more, 37 percent of this group admit they are not sure they even understand all of the benefits available to them.

As HR and talent professionals grapple with the pandemic and the “new normal” that follows, they would be well served to recognize the evolving needs of employees today. Here are some of the top research findings that may help guide these decisions.

1. Mental health and mindfulness matter, especially for Generation Z. When it comes to workplace benefits that matter most, employed adults prioritize a competitive salary (61 percent) and a generous healthcare benefits package (60 percent). Mental health and mindfulness in the workplace have become increasingly important to Americans of all ages, as well. In fact, belonging to a company that supports mindfulness is important to 87 percent of adults.

As mental health and mindfulness continue to take the workplace by storm, ensuring that benefits are constantly evolving to meet the needs of employees is key to recruiting and retaining top talent. Healthcare benefits packages can include mindfulness practice as well as access to therapy and mental health services.

EY’s employee assistance program, EY Assist, provides counseling and live support for individuals on topics including financial support and guidance, relationship and medical issues, and mental health and well-being. This tool has been invaluable to employees as they navigate different aspects of the COVID-19 crisis.

2. Mental health days take precedence, even over traditional vacation days and time off. While almost one-third (29 percent) of employed adults do not use all of their company’s allotted paid time off (PTO), 40 percent have taken a mental health day. More than half (56 percent) of college students have done the same.

Despite workers not using all of their PTO days—with millennials stating this is because they want to demonstrate their dedication to their careers—mental health does not fall to the wayside. With workers feeling conscious about perceptions and optics in the workplace, organizations can take a top-down approach to reassure their people that taking time off can improve performance at work, instead of impairing it.

In times of uncertainty, people are less likely to take time off over fear of losing their jobs. Leaders can encourage employees to take time for themselves to focus on their well-being and have an opportunity to recharge to prevent burnout.

3. Employed adults—even those who have recently graduated college—don’t want learning to end at the classroom. Just over half of employed adults (52 percent) feel they are taking advantage of their company’s professional development opportunities, and 57 percent of employed Gen Z workers are too. Given this, HR leaders can consider providing skills-based training/credentials programs for learning future-focused skills, on-site coaching, formal continuous education offerings, and mentorship programs.

Not only does this upskilling have a positive impact on the individual, but new learnings can benefit a company too by equipping their people to better serve their clients, advance their skills, and address new business challenges. Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, EY has seen a nearly 40 percent increase in usage of digital learning programs.

The way businesses ran just one quarter ago is different than how they are being conducted today, and the states of people’s lives are just as variable. As employees continue to look to companies for mental health and wellbeing support, HR and talent leaders have an opportunity to evolve their benefits to meet employee needs. While a challenging exercise, now might be the best time to introduce new offerings as the industry as large evolves into a new normal.


Wendy Edgar is HR director for the Americas at Ernst & Young LLP (EY US). The views reflected in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ernst & Young LLP or other members of the global EY organization.

Posted May 5, 2020 in Benefitsin Engaged Workforce

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