McKinsey report: 62% of workers worldwide consider mental health 'a top challenge'

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As the world nears the one-year anniversary of the coronavirus pandemic, many workers say that their mental health is at risk. 

In a new report, McKinsey surveyed 1,100 executives and 2,656 employees across 11 countries to see how the pandemic is impacting workers. They found that while 96% of companies globally have made changes to their HR policies and increased employee resources, only 1 in 6 employees report feeling supported and 62% of employees globally "consider mental health issues a top challenge."

An even larger share of women, 67%, said that mental health was their biggest coronavirus-related challenge.

Other common challenges expressed by workers included feeling disconnected, a lack of opportunity for growth and coordinating child care. 

Courtesy of McKinsey

"As you look globally at the effect of Covid-19 has had across groups, there's a lot of similarities around the world. Globally, the biggest concerns are mental and physical health," says Kweilin Ellingrud, McKinsey's lead author of the report. "But then some particular groups and some places have been disproportionately affected. For example, in India, Brazil and China, 75% to 90% of respondents cite workplace health and safety and mental health as challenges in the contact of Covid-19, compared with 50% to 60% of those in the United States, the United Kingdom and France."

Workers from backgrounds that are not the majority in their country and workers in emerging economies reported facing the greatest challenges from the pandemic.

Courtesy of McKinsey

Ellingrud says the data reflects a "fork in the road" for corporate diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts. 

"If we do nothing in terms of being more strategic about how we support our most at-risk employees around the world from these effects, we will, in fact, move two steps back," she says. "Historically, there has been slow and steady progress towards equity and equality over the years, but we are now at risk of losing quite a bit of ground across employees who are most affected unless we have a concerted effort to support those struggling most."

McKinsey's report gives actionable advice for how employers might execute these efforts.

"LGBTQ+ employees, and POC in particular, cited concerns with workload increases, and more workers expect this to be a challenge in the next six months," it reads. "Addressing this may require companies to rethink expectations on worker productivity and performance, expand benefits like paid time off, and support employees in establishing boundaries between work and home life."

And Ellingrud says she has been encouraged by early data that suggest employers are embracing the challenge — 40% reported increased funding for DEI efforts.

"The bar is rising," she says.

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