Why are millennials stressed and what can we do about it?


A recent survey by LifeWorks found that 90% of millennials had been distracted by stress at work, despite being perceived as the carefree generation. How can employers ensure this important demographic are happy and productive, asks Dan Fellows? 

I’m the first to celebrate the fact that issues relating to employee wellbeing are finally rising up the boardroom agenda, but I also know there is much work still to be done – both in terms of recognising when specific employees are struggling, and also knowing how to remedy them.

LifeWorks recently commissioned a survey of 1,000 UK workers, examining everything from workplace stress to performance recognition, and benefits packages. The findings were surprising, and very insightful.

Contrary to the perception that they’re the generation that’s been handed a free ticket to success, millennial workers were the most stressed.

Ninety per cent of the millennials admitted to having been distracted by stress at work in the past year, with over a third (32%) regularly experiencing stress, and 6% being constantly distracted by stress.

Always-on culture

We know that UK employees are faced with increasing levels of stress in the workplace, and for the majority, no system has been put in place to resolve this growing problem.

Contributing factors such as the “always-on” culture and an expectation that working overtime is just par for the course in the race to get ahead, have already contributed to elevating the stress levels of younger workers.

These stats will no doubt come as a surprise to some. If it goes any way to positively changing perceptions of this increasingly important workforce demographic, predicted to make up 50% of the global workforce by 2020, that will be a great thing.

To say that the future of business productivity depends on it is not an exaggeration.

Of course when talking about stress in the workplace, it’s important not to create a stereotype whereby younger workers are the only ones who suffer.

Business leaders need to recognise that stress can affect all employees regardless of age, gender, role or geographic location, and so appropriate strategies need to be drawn up to combat it before productivity begins to plummet.

So what’s the answer?

Employers can do three things:

  • Show and provide support: This might include access to a counsellor if an employee needs professional support, or might be something as simple as providing employees with a gym membership so they can stave off stress with a good workout regime.
  • Cater to individuals’ needs and wants: Remember that no two employees are the same, and nor do they have the same wants or habits. Make sure you identify what the specific individual’s needs are and meet them on a case-by-case basis.
  • Ensure all employees – at all levels of seniority – feel valued: This starts with effective and regular performance recognition. Employees need to feel as though their work matters and that it plays a valuable part in the business’ wider success.

Without this, they won’t be bought into the company’s vision and they won’t be working off the same hymn sheet.

Employees who feel unloved and underappreciated for a sustained period will simply leave their place of work in search of a more understanding and supportive employer. Your loss will be your competitor’s gain.

What they really, really want

Determining what individual employees want and need – especially in large organisations where HR professionals tend to have little time to get to know employees once on-boarding is complete – is, of course, easier said than done.

Offering a gym membership won’t be an effective solution for all employees, for instance, as many would prefer extra paid time off or even retail discounts – the latter is often particularly relevant for employees whose stress is borne out of financial struggles.

When asked what benefit incentive would be most valued, the majority of our survey respondents expressed a desire to receive paid time off (65%), with the next most popular benefits including retail discounts (22%), and access to an employee assistance programme (11%).

At a time when economic uncertainty is high, optimising business productivity and output is essential. Organisations need to invest in their most valuable assets now if they’re to reap an optimum return – and today, that means much more than just a pay check.


About Dan Fellows

Dan Fellows is a director at LifeWorks
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