People from around the globe are on a map, connected by trends dictating work, such as mental health and employee engagement.
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Why managers play a key role for mental health

13 Jun 2024

The recent study found that in 2023 global employee engagement stagnated and overall employee wellbeing declined.

US analytics and advisory company Gallup recently released its State of the Global Workplace: 2024 Report, highlighting that employee engagement (or lack thereof) influences their levels of stress and loneliness and the overall success of organisations.

Gallup’s research, which includes responses from more than 128,000 people in 160 countries, shows that in the years since the first State of the Global workplace report was released, the number of people experiencing stress, sadness, anxiety, anger or worry has been on the rise, reaching its highest levels in 2023. 

In his introduction to the report, Gallup CEO Jon Clifton stressed that workplaces “can play a significant role in addressing the world’s mental health crisis”. And he highlights the report’s finding that how people are managed has a critical impact on their stress levels at work and in life.

Mental health

Data from the survey indicated that one-in-five employees struggle with loneliness everyday, with higher instances in people under the age of 35 and those working remotely. It was also found that the unemployed people represented in the study were 12pc more likely to feel isolated, in comparison to their employed counterparts. 

Employees who enjoy their roles and feel engaged reported thriving in their personal lives, whereas, employees dealing with elevated negative emotions at work, for example stress, felt that being actively disengaged at work is the same as or worse than being unemployed. 

The report also noted a potential generational divide as having an impact on younger employees, as they reported lower feelings of wellbeing than older colleagues. This is a change from 10 years ago, when younger workers scored higher on wellbeing than older workers, suggesting wider issues for the younger generation.

Geography and labour laws

A link is seen between the degree of stress and the level of employee disengagement, with over half of disengaged respondents (54pc) from countries with lower labour rights scores reporting highly stressful working days. In countries with higher labour rights scores, 46pc of workers who are disengaged report experiencing daily stress.

An interesting finding however, was the correlation between a poor jobs market and a higher instance of employee disengagement, leading to the inference that “job opportunities allow bitter employees to leave bad situations and find better ones”.

Intriguingly, the reverse was not true of a positive jobs market and engagement, as the report indicated there was no connection between employee engagement and a healthy jobs market. 

Likely because “disengagement works differently than engagement. Improving economic conditions likely shifts workers from anger to indifference but not from indifference to inspiration,” suggested the study. 

Regions with stronger labour laws were shown to have a higher rate of employees who considered themselves as thriving in life, with the criteria including access to fair wages, maternity at work, equal treatment and employment security. 

However, it was noted that, regardless of the nation’s developmental status or the nature of its labour laws, those who considered themselves as having a great job, held more hope for the future.

Additionally, western European respondents, who were described as prescribing to a work-to-live mentality, reported strongest labour laws and lower engagement figures, in comparison to the US, which has poorer labour laws but a higher degree of engagement, with a live-to-work mindset. 

Countries with stronger labour laws, such as fair wages, safe work and maternity supports, have employees who feel less lonely and less stressed.

The role of the manager

Managers are more likely to enjoy work-related perks, such as higher pay, social status and confidence when offering an opinion, which can contribute to higher engagement and life evaluations.

However, the report found that managers are often the ones providing additional support to employees and directing them towards mental health resources, therefore initiatives that address employee wellbeing should not disregard the issues managers may be facing

“While only 30pc of managers and 23pc of employees [who responded] overall are engaged globally”, the data shows the impact a positive, engaged manager can have on their organisation. 

“Best-practice organisations across industries and geographies have three-quarters of their managers engaged and seven in 10 non-managers. This is the equivalent of 14 engaged employees for every one actively disengaged employee, a ratio 11 times the global average.”

Benefits to organisations when units and teams are organised and engaged include a 78pc drop in absenteeism, a 21pc drop in turnover in high-turnover businesses, a 68pc increase in wellbeing and a 23pc increase in profitability. 

The report found that organisations with leaders that focused on building “strong and resilient cultures” prioritised manager hiring and development, integrated engagement into every stage of the employee and manager life cycle and emphasised wellbeing at work and in life.

When organisations do these things, they simultaneously improve employees’ lives and organisational performance.”

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Laura Varley
By Laura Varley

Laura Varley is a Careers reporter at Silicon Republic. She has a background in technology PR and journalism and is borderline obsessed with film and television, the theatre, Marvel and Mayo GAA. She is currently trying to learn how to knit.

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