Flexibility Can Help Employees with Mental Health Issues

HR Management & Compliance stress

May is Mental Health Month and a recent FlexJobs survey suggests that flexible work options can help workers manage mental illness and keep them on the job during the difficult life events they may be experiencing.


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As we’re all aware, COVID-19 has changed life as we know it and remote work has become a viable solution to keeping workers employed, but once the crisis ends, will employers let their workers remain remote? Consider the statistics listed here to make an informed decision for your company.

Mental Health Issues on the Rise

Mental health issues in the workplace are on the rise, according to multiple media reports. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 18.3% of adults—or 44.7 million—in the United States reported some form of mental illness in 2016.

“In addition, 71% of adults reported at least one symptom of stress, such as a headache or feeling overwhelmed or anxious.” According to Mind Share Partners, even your best employees may have a mental health condition, they say. In fact, stress is one of the leading contributors.

Mental illness obviously can impact job performance and absenteeism, but it also has implications for employee interactions with each other and with customers.

Flexibility May Help

According to FlexJobs’ research:

  • 84% of the 2,100 respondents with mental illnesses (e.g., anxiety or depression) indicated that a flexible job could help them better manage their illnesses.
  • 35% indicated they had to take a break from work due to difficult personal circumstances, such as death, divorce, or a serious physical or mental illness (their own or others’).
  • 88% said that if their jobs offered flexibility, they would have been able to remain on the job while dealing with these serious issues.

Supervisory and management staff clearly play a role in impacting the flexibility an employee may have in a job. FlexJobs’ research supports this:

  • 35% of employees who have flexible work options said, “My boss’s work habits make work/life balance easy for me”; only 14% of those without flexible work options said this.
  • 27% of employees with flexible work options said, “My boss’s habits make work/life balance difficult for me”; 40% of those without flexible work options said their boss’s habits make work/life balance difficult for them.

In a news release, Sara Sutton, Founder and CEO of FlexJobs, said, “As our survey findings confirm, flexible work can play a very positive role in supporting employees who have mental health issues or who are going through difficult life circumstances.”

She points to research from Mental Health America indicating that “more than half of employees are afraid to take a day off to attend to their mental health.”

Employers that provide flexibility for employees can help minimize stress and its implications for mental health. Sutton says, “I believe flexible work can help improve the health and happiness of our nation’s workforce and our communities, which is one of the reasons I am such a passionate advocate for it.”

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