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New Grads Are Hopeful but Stressed as They Enter the Workforce

Here are seven mental wellness strategies to ease their anxieties

A man in a suit and tie is looking at his phone.

​Employer-provided mental health resources such as affordable insurance coverage and paid mental health days are a must-have for most members of the Class of 2022, who feel stressed about entering the workforce.

While 92 percent are hopeful about their future and 88 percent say they're prepared to enter the workforce, 69 percent think the pandemic's impact on their mental health has made them less prepared than they otherwise would have been, according to a TimelyMD survey of 1,041 college seniors in March.

"They're still taking with them [into the workforce] the effects of the pandemic and the isolation and the ways their lives have changed" in the last two and a half years, said Luke Hejl, CEO and founder of TimelyMD, a virtual health and wellness provider.

Their mental health issues won't disappear when they graduate and enter the workforce, Hejl pointed out, and 92 percent of college seniors expect employers to offer related resources. 

"Employers need to see this as a wake-up call and inspect what they're doing for their people. They need to look at their culture," he said during a TimelyMD webinar. "How are we creating a healthy work/life integration?"


The top four causes of workforce-related stress for the Class of 2022 are:

  • Finding and keeping a job—65 percent.
  • Supporting themselves financially, paying bills—52 percent. Although 53 percent of students reported their starting salary is more than they expected, paying their bills is a top cause of concern, TimelyMD found.
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) also found this to be the case. In a recent survey of 549 American workers in April, 52 percent of those ages 18 to 29 cited finances as a leading stressor, versus 47 percent of workers ages 30 to 44, 31 percent of those 45 to 59 and 21 percent of those 60 and older.

  • Being independent and self-reliant—49 percent.
  • Navigating health care and insurance—27 percent. One-fourth (24 percent) don't feel confident making health care choices.

Actions Employers Can Take

Employers can encourage and support mental wellness by:

Offering accessible mental health insurance coverage. Not being able to pay for mental health services is a barrier to getting help, according to 72 percent of respondents to a survey fielded by Lady Gaga's Born This Way Foundation and Indeed. Half of the 1,200 respondents ages 18 to 29 did not have mental health care insurance.

New York City-based consulting and digital media firm January Digital gives all employees access to unlimited online therapy and a mental health coach via Slack; an annual stipend for mental, physical, emotional and spiritual support; and monthly companywide "Wellness Fridays" holidays.

Employers also can provide financial planning courses, legal guidance, family counseling and lifestyle management support, noted Yvonne Belle, senior vice president of people and culture at D2L, an e-learning provider in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada.

Offering competitive pay. More than one-third of young adults work two or more jobs, according to the Born This Way Foundation/Indeed survey, and more than 40 percent of young Black, LGBTQ and Native American workers are more likely to work multiple jobs, it found.

"Having a college degree seems to make no difference on the need to have multiple sources of income," according to the findings.

Providing paid time off. Eighty-two percent of workers ages 19 to 25 want mental health days, according to a survey conducted in March and April for HR software company BambooHR and TalentLMS, a learning management system backed by Epignosis. Among the 1,205 respondents, 58 percent were secondary education students.

The Born This Way Foundation/Indeed survey had similar findings: 79 percent of college seniors want benefits such as personal or mental health days. However only 32 percent said they work at organizations where they are provided.

Encouraging breaks during the day. Kazoo, an employee experience platform, implemented multiple fitness challenges for employees to boost wellness and prioritize health across its entire employee base, CEO Patrick Manzo told SHRM Online.

"These tasks vary from completing a 30-minute cardio workout or taking a walk outside to mental health-focused initiatives like meditating or talking to a therapist," he said. Employees earn points redeemable for company swag and gift cards or receive wellness-related awards such as an Apple watch and gym passes.

Training managers to create supportive and inclusive working environments. Managers play a huge role in an employee's mental well-being, said Laura Lee Gentry, chief people Officer at Enboarder, an onboarding software provider headquartered in Sydney.

"It's important that they are closely involved in providing resources to support mental health," Gentry said. "It's also critical for managers to work in tandem with workplace mental health resources like job accommodation for mental health conditions or employee assistance programs to provide a positive and safe workplace, setting the stage for true employee well-being during onboarding and beyond."

Providing ways to connect. "Students coming out of colleges now are wanting those connections, and building creative ways to connect is just the tip of the iceberg," said Seli Fakorzi, a psychotherapist and TimelyMD's director of mental health operations.

Handshake, a San Francisco-based provider of pre-employment testing software, created an Asian employee resource group in reaction to the rise of crime against people of Asian descent during the pandemic, said Christine Cruzergara, Handshake's chief education strategy officer.

"It brought [that] community together in ways that made them feel more supported and not so alone," she said during TimelyMD's webinar.

Offering mentorships. "Mentors are so important—not only because of their help professionally, but also because of the way the conversation veers between professional and personal," Hejl told SHRM Online. "Our personal lives have always impacted our professional lives. Now that we're in this changing workforce dynamic, it's never been more important to find a mentor to help you navigate the intersection.

"Mentorship helps create a sense of belonging. When someone has a mentor, role model or ally they can connect with and relate to in the workplace—the sense of belonging that results from that can positively impact an employee's mental health," and older and more experienced professionals can help their younger and early-career colleagues in this way, Hejl said.

"We are going to be dealing with some of the effects of the pandemic for some time," he noted. "The world has forever changed, but my hope is that [the pandemic] has opened a door that it is OK for people to utilize mental health resources."


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