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Students and grads concerned about work-impacted mental health

Poppy Jaman
health

With the Christmas holiday approaching, new data on UK student and graduate mental health has identified that those early in their careers feel they would be expected to regularly check in with their employers outside of working hours. Contributor Poppy Jaman OBE, CEO – City Mental Health Alliance and Nick Syson, Partner – Linklaters.

Of the 519 graduates and students surveyed and planning to apply for a job within financial, legal and professional services, 74 percent said they are concerned about meeting the expectations of a new employer. The data shows that nearly one third (30 percent) believe they would be expected to check and respond to emails while on holiday, indicating that many feel the need to be available during their free time to fulfil work requests. The survey revealed this was highest amongst those looking to work in the legal profession, where 35 percent thought they would need to be available on email over the holidays.

When asked about meeting the day to day expectations of potential employers, the report revealed half (50 percent) of respondents feel they would be expected to check their emails outside of working hours during the week, whilst a further 44 percent expect they will be required to respond to emails on the weekend. Over a quarter (27 percent) of students and graduates said they would feel expected to receive phone calls over the weekend.

With 55 percent of those surveyed revealing that they anticipate the amount of time they dedicate to maintaining their mental health to reduce once they have started their new job, the CMHA is calling for employers to recognise the importance of annual leave in protecting mental wellbeing of their employees.

Poppy Jaman OBE, CEO of City Mental Health Alliance comments on the findings: Starting a new career is an exciting step for any graduate but it’s clear new starters are worried about meeting the expectations of their new employer. As part of this many often feel the need to be “always on” and available to respond to work requests during their free time. Those early in their career are therefore concerned that work commitments will leave them with less time to look after their mental wellbeing.

“Employers have an important role in supporting and promoting the mental health of their employees. It is vital that employers set appropriate expectations for new employees and recognise the need for uninterrupted annual leave and free time. Senior leaders and managers can help to promote mentally healthy workplaces by demonstrating healthy behaviours such as using their own annual leave and actively encouraging others to do the same. Annual leave or free time at the weekend should not be viewed as a dispensable luxury and with the Christmas break fast approaching, employers should help their employees feel that they can switch off from work in order to fully recharge.”

Nick Syson, partner at Linklaters, said, “The health and wellbeing of staff is a really important issue. Employers have an opportunity to promote awareness and understanding of the importance of mental health, encouraging people to proactively take care of their wellbeing both when they’re at work, but also in their personal time.

“We recognise the pressures new trainees can face when starting a training contract and as they transition into the world of work. It’s important they don’t burnout and use their personal time to switch off from work commitments. To encourage this behavior, we’re piloting induction sessions with Cognacity, a provider of corporate resilience and mental health services, to equip trainees with the tools and skills that will help them be mindful of their mental wellbeing as they adjust to their new role.”


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