Most employers feel they encourage healthy discussions about mental health, but a large number of their employees feel differently, a new study from The Hartford has concluded.

The Hartford Found 68 percent of employers believe they foster an open and inclusive work environment that encourages mental health discussions, but only 42 percent of U.S. workers agreed with them. What’s more, just 44 percent of working adults felt they had enough flexibility in their job schedules to get the help they need. In contrast, 71 percent of employers believe that work flexibility exists, according to The Hartford’s 2020 Future of Benefits Study: Mental Health in the Workplace.

That disconnect between employer and employee about mental health and the workplace has only gotten worse with the coronavirus pandemic, The Hartford Chairman and CEO Christopher Swift said in prepared remarks.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the mental health challenges facing the workforce and cannot be ignored by employers,” Swift said.

Among the study’s additional findings.

  • 59 percent of employers believe mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, are a significant workplace issue.
  • 64 percent of employers feel prepared to address their employees’ mental health conditions, but 56 percent of workers said they have privacy concerns about sharing mental health information with their employer/co-workers.
  • Almost half of employees said COVID has increased their anxiety level.
  • 24 percent of employees said they struggled with depression or anxiety on a daily or weekly basis in June, up from 20 percent in March.
  • Gen Z and younger Millennial workers were nearly three times more likely to experience struggles with depression or anxiety most days or few times a week, versus older Boomer workers.

Along with the survey release, The Hartford said it is partnering with the National Alliance on Mental Health to help employers and employees understand how to reduce stigma in the workplace and encourage those with mental health conditions to seek support.

“We call on fellow business leaders to join us in creating a new standard for employee benefits that include mental health resources which not only improve the lives of employees, but also the overall success of the company,” Daniel Gillison, Jr., NAMI’s CEO, said in prepared remarks.

The Hartford study was conducted in two waves. The first was from Feb. 27 to March 13, 2020, just before the pandemic escalated in the United States, and included 761 employers and 1,503 employees. The second wave was fielded from June 15 – June 30, 2020 and included 567 employers and 1,038 employees. The employers surveyed were human resource professionals who manage/decide employee benefits, and employees surveyed were actively employed. The margin of error is employer +/- 4 percent and employee +/-3 percent at a 95 percent confidence level, according to the study announcement.

Sources: The Hartford, NAMI