Recent research has indicated that while many workers are consumed by stress, those struggling the most are: 1) the youngest employees and 2) those who have found themselves working at home. While companies have implemented virtual solutions and process changes to ensure remote work productivity as well as some degree of collegial camaraderie, workers simply aren’t thriving — and they need employer support.

State of Stress research insights

According to the research, 18–29-year-olds report the most significant stress levels in today’s workforce:

84% of workers 18 to 29

76% of workers 30 to 44

73% of workers 45 to 59

67% of workers 60 years of age or older

What’s more, compared with remote workers over age 29, these young employees have a higher likelihood of being “more worried about the future than ever before” and feeling greatly to extremely stressed about the health of self/family due to the pandemic. Beyond the impact of COVID-19 specifically, these young remote workers are simply not feeling their best. Across all categories, at least half of respondents indicate that stress is negatively affecting their health, as follows:

Mental health: 72%

Physical health: 54%

Sleep: 54%

Nutrition: 50%

The mental health consequences of stress can’t be underestimated because of their close linkage to burnout— and the reduced capacity to maintain pre-pandemic levels of productivity and engagement with work and life. In fact, young remote workers reported that stress impacts their focus and motivation (72% and 56%, respectively), which manifests in difficulty concentrating and procrastinating at work. What’s more, 54% of respondents in this group said that stress is causing them to withdraw emotionally at home.

Looking further into the day-to-day experience, the research shows how stress-induced disruptions to these workers’ weekly routines have led to the increased consumption of salty, sweet, or fatty foods (60%), increased video/tv watching (58%), and decreased physical exercising (46%). While reporting that they’re managing their stress on their own by trying to get more sleep (64%), engaging in light exercise (50%), and connecting with others (48%), these methods are clearly “not enough” to keep them from engaging in behaviours that are counterproductive to stress-relief.

In other words, these young employees need more help. It’s important to appreciate that there’s no silver-bullet for coping with stress. Employees are individuals with their own experiences, struggles, levels of resilience and fortitude, not to mention preferences for how and when to practice self-care. It’s also noteworthy that many younger employees entered the pandemic without the resiliency and support systems to manage the upheaval and uncertainty.

Buoy them with compassion and resources
Without the same benefit of experience overcoming the many trials and tribulations their older counterparts have endured, younger employees are still learning how to make it through tough times. This period of isolation and uncertainty is prime time for them to start developing the coping and resilience they will need throughout life. It’s easy to understand why they might feel more stress or respond to it in less-than-productive ways: they haven’t flexed certain muscles yet and are more vulnerable in many ways to change — especially change that transforms the way they work and live.

Here are some suggestions to helping younger workers develop the coping skills to thrive in hard times and regular, day-to-day life:

Commit to them — and state it. Let your workforce know that you understand what they’re going through and that you want to help them as they continue to struggle with stress and overwhelm. (Employees across the generations will appreciate it, too.)

Lead by example — and show empathy. Younger workers, in particular, are looking for cues that it’s okay to take care of themselves. If your management team can help normalize mental health discussions and demonstrate self-care, employees will feel more comfortable sharing their concerns and taking action to prioritize their wellbeing.

Give them permission — and offer on-demand tools.
 Provide resources that make managing stress easy and convenient and part of their work-from-home workday. Ensure they have access to content across all of the interconnected areas of wellbeing, from fitness and nutrition to mental health and financial wellness.

Members of Gen Z have different expectations from older generations— they want benefits that help make their lives easier. Motivated by more than a pay check and inspired by dynamic cultures that value employees as individuals, these workers want a more connected relationship with their employer. They want to know they are genuinely cared for, especially while working from home and physically disconnected from others. So, give them the permission, support, and resources to acknowledge their struggles, beat stress, and feel better.