Managers Impact Our Mental Health More Than Doctors, Therapists — and Same as Spouses

Three-fifths of the world’s employees say their job impacts their mental health more than anything else
January 24, 2023 , LOWELL, Mass., and WESTON, Fla.

Is your manager stressing you out, or do they have a positive impact on your mental health? The Workforce Institute at UKG surveyed 3,400 people across 10 countries to spotlight the critical role our jobs, leadership, and, most of all, our managers play in supporting mental health in and outside of work.

Key Insights:

  • Managers impact employees’ mental health (69%) more than doctors (51%) or therapists (41%) — and even the same as a spouse or partner (69%).
  • More than 80% of employees would rather have good mental health than a high-paying job.
  • Two-thirds of employees would take a pay cut for a job that better supports their mental wellness — and 70% of managers would, too.
  • Work stress negatively impacts employees’ home life (71%), wellbeing (64%), and relationships (62%). 
  • 40% of the C-suite says they will likely quit within the year because of work-related stress.

“We talk a lot about mental health in terms of a medical diagnosis or burnout. While those are serious issues, the day-to-day stressors we live with — especially those caused by work — are what we should talk more about as leaders,” said Pat Wadors, chief people officer at UKG. “Life isn’t all milk and honey, and when leaders open up about their own struggles, they acknowledge employees are not alone, and that it’s OK not to be OK. Authentic, vulnerable leadership is the key to creating belonging at work, and, in turn, the key to solving the mental health crisis in the workplace.”

[Watch Pat Wadors moderate a LinkedIn Live panel on leadership’s impact on belonging, mental health.]

Workers are Tired, Stressed, and Want Leaders to do More
At the end of work, 43% of employees are “often” or “always” exhausted, and 78% of employees say that stress negatively impacts their work performance. That stress from work carries into our personal lives, as employees say work negatively impacts their home life (71%), wellbeing (64%), and relationships (62%). For people who report “poor” or “very poor” mental health, around one-quarter (28%) say they lack work-life balance, compared with just 4% of people in “good” or “excellent” mental health.

While 9 in 10 HR and C-suite leaders believe working for their company has a positive impact on employees’ mental health, only half of employees agree. In fact, 1 in 3 say their manager fails to recognize the impact they have on their team’s mental wellbeing, and 7 in 10 would like their company and manager to do more to support mental health.

“The chronic anxiety that comes from working through one global crisis after another is wearing on employees,” said Dr. Jarik Conrad, executive director of The Workforce Institute at UKG. “Being overwhelmed consumes human energy and impacts retention, performance, innovation, and culture. Employers can be the anchor of stability for their people by giving them the support and resources they need — not just what we think they need.”

It’s OK Not to Be OK: Your Manager — and Even Your CEO — is Stressed, Too!
Forty percent of employees are “often” or “always” stressed about work, but 38% say they “rarely” or “never” talk with their manager about their workload. Yet, research shows that managers and C-level leaders carry much of the same burdens as their people — sometimes more.

Managers are more often stressed out than their team members and senior leadership (42% vs. 40% and 35%, respectively), and 25% say they are “often” or “always” feeling burned out.

The C-suite is not immune to challenges, either. A surprising 33% of C-level leaders say, “I don’t want to work anymore,” and the younger the leader, the more they agree with that statement. In fact, a whopping 40% of the C-suite says they will likely quit in the next 12 months due to work-related stress.

“My top advice for companies when it comes to mental health: Don’t leave your leaders behind,” said Dan Schawbel, managing partner at Workplace Intelligence. “Sometimes, it’s hard to muster compassion for the C-suite because they make good money, yet many fail to account for all the pressures they’re faced with, including being responsible for the wellbeing of sometimes thousands of employees. We’re all human, and, to lead well, you first need to put your own mask on before helping others.”

Read the full report, “Mental Health at Work: Managers and Money,” for additional insights and recommendations for building empathy, authenticity, active listening, and a growth mindset to create a sense of belonging, inclusion, and positive mental health in the workplace. Additionally, read about what the global workforce values in an employer, in “We Can Fix Work,” also published by The Workforce Institute at UKG.

About The Workforce Institute at UKG

The Workforce Institute at UKG provides research and education on critical workplace issues facing organizations around the world. By bringing together a global consortium of HR and workforce management thought leaders, the think tank is uniquely positioned to empower organizations with practical ideas for optimizing the 21st-century workplace while also providing an important voice for employees, including frontline and hourly workers. Founded in 2007, The Workforce Institute focuses its research and education — including books, podcasts, surveys, blogs, and its annual list of workplace predictions — on balancing the needs and desires of diverse employee populations with the interests of organizations in order to manage absenteeism, fight burnout, develop equitable work schedules, and build strong leaders, all to drive inspired performance.

About UKG

At UKG, our purpose is people. As strong believers in the power of culture and belonging as the secret to success, we champion great workplaces and build lifelong partnerships with our customers to show what’s possible when businesses invest in their people. Born from a historic merger that created one of the world’s leading HCM cloud companies, our Life-work Technology approach to HR, payroll, and workforce management solutions for all people helps more than 70,000 organizations around the globe and across every industry anticipate and adapt to their employees’ needs beyond just work. To learn more, visit ukg.com.

Survey Methodology
Research findings are based on a survey conducted by Walr for Workplace Intelligence on behalf of The Workforce Institute at UKG between September 16 and October 1, 2022. In total, 2,200 employees (including managers) in 10 countries responded to questions about employment, work-related stress, mental health, four-day workweeks, engagement/purpose at work, workplace incentives, and how their feelings toward work may be expressed to others. Responses were gathered from 600 employees in the U.S. and 200 employees in each of the following countries: Australia/New Zealand, Canada, France, Germany, India, Mexico, the Netherlands, and the U.K. Additionally, in the U.S., 600 C-Suite leaders and 600 human resources (HR) executives/directors responded to the same survey, which was customized to their roles to include questions focused on their workforces. All survey participants were adults who worked part- or full-time for at least one employer in an hourly or salaried role. See the full report for an extended methodology statement.

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