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Supporting the next generation of the workforce

Many young people in the workforce are in crisis. Nearly three out of four young professionals are struggling with mental health conditions and 90% expect employers to help support their mental health.1

And new research commissioned by the City Mental Health Alliance (CMHA), in partnership with Bupa, found that almost half (47%) will actively seek out employers who prioritise mental health.2

Workplace wellbeing

This echoes the recent Bupa Global Executive Wellbeing Index, which found that 29% of business leaders aged 18-34 believe an increased focus on workplace wellbeing and mental health will be key to recruiting top talent from now on.3

And attitudes are changing at speed. Research by Milkround, the UK’s largest graduate recruitment platform, has already identified key differences between the expectations and attitudes of Millennials (born between 1980 and 1995) and Generation Z which followed them.4

Just before the pandemic reached the UK, it found that 60% of Millennials were more likely to apply for a position if it included mental health sick days, and this rose to 72% among Gen Zs.5

Farimah Darbyshire
Head of Programmes and External Relations
 City Mental Health Alliance

Sick leave

The extent of the mental health crisis facing managers and leaders of the future is revealed in Time to Act: Mental Health in Early Careers.

Nearly three out of four (72%) have experienced poor mental health in the past year and 20% have taken sick leave because of a mental health condition.6


Almost half (45%) have experienced consistently low mood and two-thirds (61%) say poor mental health has impaired their ability to concentrate at work and do their job ‘well’.7

Ironically, this desire to ‘do well’ — which can drive academic and professional success — may also make some young professionals vulnerable to mental health challenges. Farimah explains, “Needing to achieve, needing to be the best, being scared of failing, imposter syndrome — and the difference between healthy perfectionism and unhealthy perfectionism — is something that we look at a lot.

Unhealthy perfectionism

“Healthy striving for excellence, is when you want to do well, you want to achieve, and it’s very welcome and positive. Unhealthy perfectionism is when this tips over into behaviour that is detrimental to your wellbeing. For example, in healthy perfectionism, if you do something wrong or get critical feedback you say, ‘Right I need to learn from that’. With unhealthy perfectionism you internalise it and think ‘that was a reflection on me as a person’.

Farimah warns, “Wellbeing and mental health has to be given the same sort of consideration that is given to physical health and safety and COVID protocols. If it isn’t, young professionals will move to organisations where it is a priority.

“Sure, salaries are important, but they place a much higher priority on their wellbeing than previous generations.”

Line-manager support

Farimah warns that the extent of mental health conditions among young professionals, and their willingness to seek out organisations which support mental health presents challenges for employers and line-managers.

And this is exacerbated by hybrid working, when there is not the camaraderie of a workplace environment and opportunities for informal support and positive confirmation.

Farimah says it’s not enough for leaders to talk about the importance of mental health, they must also ensure line managers are given the space and skills to provide effective support.

Proactive strategies might include using timesheets to spot when someone is working overly long hours, encouraging people to schedule personal time and setting non-negotiable times, when they are not available for work.

Time to act

Farimah says, “There are three things organisations must do:

  1. Create a culture of wellbeing and psychological safety
  2. Create a mentally healthy work environment
  3. Provide and signpost to accessible mental health resources, tools and support

She adds “We know that when work is designed well, it is good for mental health. People get a sense of achievement, a sense of community, a sense of learning. But resilience is not an unlimited resource, at some point it needs to be replenished.”

Supporting You

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2 (PDF, 1.7MB)

3 Bupa Global Executive Wellbeing Index, UK data



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