Workplace Struggles That Affect a Gen Z’s Mental Health

A study reveals that Gen Zs are experiencing high bouts of depression and anxiety due to the impact of COVID-19. We list these struggles and what companies can do to help.

When it comes to mental health, the numbers don’t look good for Asia, particularly the Philippines. According to the AXA Study of Mind Health and Wellbeing 2023—a study conducted by insurance provider AXA—the number of Filipino respondents in the Generation Z, or Gen Z bracket (ages 18 to 24 years old) “that admitted [to] going through bouts of depression and anxiety were higher than global numbers.”

In fact, numbers for the Philippines show that responses for depression are at 35%, while anxiety is at 16%. In comparison, global numbers are at 27% and 12%, respectively.

The numbers likewise look bleak when we zero in on Gen Z. According to the study, Gen Z “appears to be taking the brunt of the impact” of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health. As a matter of fact, more than 54% of Gen Z globally and 51% in Asia are experiencing poor mental health.

So what has been contributing to the poor mental health that Gen Z is experiencing? The study further “identifies specific challenges they face in today’s workplace, while also highlighting the need for employers to explore tailored support to address a potential surge in turnover in young talent.”

In this article, we list these workplace struggles and what companies can do to help their Gen Z employees.

The Gen Z Group, Explained

Gen Z is the generation of people born between 1997 to 2012. Known as digital natives, Gen Z is also the first generation to grow up with the internet as an integral part of their daily lives. What’s more, this generation spans a wide range, with the oldest at 26—usually already working by then—while the youngest are still preteens.

As the second-youngest generation to date, with millennials before and Generation Alpha right after, Gen Z is defined as the “generation [that] has been raised on the internet and social media, with some of the oldest finishing colleges by 2020 and entering the workforce.” They are likewise considered “tech-savvy, pragmatic, open-minded, individualistic, but also socially responsible.”

More than that, Gen Z is known for its idealism, as they are both “inclusive consumers” and socially progressive dreamers. This means that the generation has a strong sense of responsibility toward social issues, establishing greater equity for all, demanding purpose and accountability, and creating more opportunities for people of diverse and underrepresented backgrounds.

What Affects the Mental Health of the Gen Z Workforce?

The study reveals that certain challenges have been affecting Gen Z talent—specifically in Asian workplaces. Moreover, these challenges are said to be a threat to the youth’s overall mental health. 

Keeping Up with the Change of Pace at Work

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the world has adapted more and more to just living with the pandemic. This has been most evident in the workplace—with companies adapting their work schedules to changing times. In fact, a lot of them have implemented strict work-from-home schemes at the height of the pandemic before switching to hybrid or onsite work as restrictions loosened. 

These transitions have, at times, been not smooth, and Gen Z Asians, in particular, have struggled to keep up with this change of pace at work. 

Uncertainty About the Future 

In connection with this, the COVID-19 pandemic has not only affected the pace that workplaces run on but also how the future looks like for Gen Z Asians. After all, it has raised uncertainty for Gen Zs—with many employees losing their jobs and a lot of people struggling to find jobs. Moreover, many businesses have closed down at the height of the pandemic, while those that survived are still struggling to find their footing. 

All these uncertainties in terms of employment have been negatively affecting the mental health of Gen Z youth. In fact, 69% of Asian Gen Z talent cite this as one of the challenges that pose a threat to their mental health. 

Separating Work Life from Personal Life

Another workplace challenge caused by the pandemic is the struggle to separate work life from personal life. With millions forced to stay at home when COVID-19 cases reached an all-time high, many have had to convert their home spaces into makeshift workspaces—leading many to struggle to identify where work ends and where home life begins. 

This challenge has not disappeared even as workplaces have shifted to hybrid or onsite work. In fact, according to the study, 49% of Asian Gen Z talent say that the struggle to separate work life from personal life has negatively affected their mental health. 

Lack of Job-Skill Fit

Lastly, many Asian Gen Z talent are experiencing a lack of job-skill fit with their current jobs. This has also been cited as having a negative effect on mental health. For context, job fit is defined by Criteria Corp as “a concept that refers to how well an employee is suited for his or her position.” 

The AXA study likewise points out that the lack of job-skill fit “has a very strong correlation with mental well-being, as those that have the right job-skill fit are 2.5 times more likely to perform their best.”

How Companies Can Help Employees Take Better Care of Their Mental Health 

Given all these challenges that Gen Z employees are dealing with at the workplace, companies play a huge and vital role in creating a healthier workplace for all employees. In fact, study shows that supporting the mental health of employees has an impact on a company’s ability to retain its workforce. Numbers show that in Asia, “companies that provide [mental] health support are 2.5 times more likely to have employees that are flourishing.” 

So how can companies specifically address the challenges cited by Asian Gen Z talent and help them flourish?

First, companies can address the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic by setting clear-cut rules and regulations regarding work hours. These can include simple policies such as a no texting or calling rule outside of work hours, allowing employees to pick which days they want to be at the office, and providing additional benefits that address the pandemic-related challenges of employees. 

Second, given the strong correlation between mental well-being and lack of job-skill fit, companies can help employees by providing training and mentorship programs. These programs can help boost the confidence of employees and provide them with the needed skills to flourish and advance in their careers.

Lastly, companies should always establish open lines of communication with employees. This should give employees a sense of confidence and security to be able to share their thoughts, opinions, and even grievances with the company. Doing so will help employees feel that they are being heard by the company. Aside from this, the company will also have a better idea of employee concerns and struggles that need to be addressed.