Starting a new job poses mental health challenges, a recent study suggests

With the possibility of a recession looming, job seekers remain optimistic about their outlook for the coming year. In a recent Joblist survey of 30,000 job seekers in the United States, roughly two-thirds of respondents said they plan to change jobs in the next year. Despite fake job offers, rising economic concerns due to inflation and high interest rates, the majority of job seekers actually feel good about their position in the job market, according to the Joblist survey. They believe their job prospects are better now than a year ago, that it’s still a job-seeker’s market, and that they still have the upper hand, despite continued layoffs in the tech sector, rising inflation and the International Monetary Fund’s forecast for a recession for a third of the world.

The impact of job anxiety

A new Monster survey also found that 96% of workers are looking for or plan to look for a new job this year, but many have “new job jitters” due to mental health challenges both in and out of the workplace. Job seekers in the Monster survey gave a variety of reasons for looking for a new position. Key findings include:

  • 67% say they’ve worked in a toxic workplace and burned out.
  • 54% said their roles were different than described during the interview.
  • 40% received a better offer from another company.
  • 16% are worried about the financial future of their company.
  • 54% said they stayed in a job for less than half a year before “quickly quitting”.

During the job search phase, job seekers said they were worried about finding a job. Key findings include:

  • 87% of job seekers experience fear of a new job starting a new job.
  • 53% of workers say starting a new job is scarier than a trip to the dentist, holding a spider or snake, and skydiving.

After getting a job, workers are nervous about the adjustment process. Key findings include:

  • 50% had times when they worried they might be fired or deemed unqualified.
  • 46% had moments when they regretted accepting the new job offer.
  • 30% had moments when they wished they had stayed at their old job.
  • 25% deferred when making PTO requests.
  • 22% say they did not perform at their best.
  • 65% of workers experience imposter syndrome – feelings of self-doubt and personal incompetence.

Workers said their work worries carried over into their personal lives outside the workplace. Key findings include:

  • 59% have lost sleep due to new work pressures.
  • 49% had negative physical or emotional symptoms.
  • 35% struggle to balance all their personal and professional commitments.
  • 19% say they have struggled with their personal relationships.
  • 25 percent reported that job anxiety lasted up to three months before they felt settled and comfortable at their new company, and seven percent said they didn’t feel settled until a full year on the job.

What employers can do to reduce anxiety at work

Since job anxiety seems to be an issue for employees during the job search phase as well as during the onboarding process, I spoke with Dr. Nina Vasan, Chief Medical Officer at Real, about how to get employees talking about mental health issues. “First and foremost, there’s still so much stigma,” she explained. “While more people are talking about mental health issues in the community and in the workplace, many employees are afraid to talk about it in the workplace because they don’t feel confident that their manager or the workplace will support them.” She also said, that workers worry that their work will be judged differently if they disclose that they have a mental health problem. “People share that they worry that they might not get the same opportunities, that they might not get promoted, that their compensation will suffer, or that they might even be let go.” She advises that changing the narrative starts at the top in any organization, and offers several actions leaders can take.

  • Model vulnerability. “If leaders in your organization share openly about their mental health, it opens up space for employees to share their own struggles.”
  • Be proactive. “Check the health of the organization continuously. Don’t wait until stress and burnout run rampant in your organization.”
  • Appraisals. “Partner with your HR team to conduct employee engagement and well-being surveys to keep a pulse on your organization’s mental health.”
  • Standardize mental health discussions. “Normalize having these conversations in the workplace one person at a time.”
  • Provide benefits. “It is also critical for employers to look at the benefits they provide to their employees. The current status quo of mental health coverage and utilization is still very low. When companies proactively change their benefits to include more mental health treatment options, it can have a huge impact on the mental health of their workforce. Qualities employers should look for when evaluating mental health benefits include: Are these benefits engaging, inclusive and welcoming, and can their employees use these benefits anytime, anywhere?’
  • Consider overtime. “One of the most important qualities of mental health benefits is giving your employees tools they can use ‘after hours.’ We know that traditional healthcare hours overlap with traditional working hours, and it is critical that people receive care and proactively address mental health issues outside of the traditional working day.”

What employees can do to reduce job anxiety

While employers have a responsibility to ensure a mentally healthy work culture, it is also the duty of employees to take responsibility for their mental health in the workplace. Vasan shares five ways workers can protect themselves while working remotely and in the office.

  • Set boundaries. “This includes the hours you work and the workload you take on (or not). If you work from home, take steps to set boundaries between your work and home life so you’re not working 24/7.”
  • Engage in proactive care. “Be sure to make time for a doctor’s appointment, integrate exercise into your day, and eat nutritious food to fuel your body. There is a strong connection between mind and body.”
  • Take breaks throughout the day. “A five-minute break every hour can dramatically increase your productivity and well-being. Taking proper breaks gives you time to recharge throughout the day. It could be as little as getting up from your computer and stretching or going outside and walking around the block a few times.”
  • Take a vacation. “Too many people don’t go on vacation proactively. They wait until they face burnout and “need” a vacation. If your employer offers paid time off, take it! Disconnecting from work is a healthy way to prioritize your mental health.”
  • Ask for help. “If you feel that your workload or schedule is affecting your mental health, speak to your manager before things reach a crisis point.”

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