Mental Health & Mobility: Diving into the Numbers 10.18.2022 | Jennifer Connell

We never could have predicted how much our lives would be upended by the Covid-19 pandemic. Add to that the rise in violence against defined groups; wildfires; political unrest; and other major stressors in the workplace about safety, remote work… then hybrid work. These all unfolded in quick succession, compounding the damage to our collective mental health.

Fresh off the tails of Mental Health Awareness Day last week (October 10), I thought it was the perfect time to share some of the insight and poignant research that I presented at CERC’s Conference in Newfoundland.  I was honored to lead this session, Mobility and Mental Health, along with two powerhouse mobility leaders, Mala Cornell (CPP Investments), and Carolyn Olsen (PEO Canada) who share my passion for raising the bar when it comes to mental health and wellness in our industry (and beyond!).

The concept of mental wellness has become considerably more important to organizations that recognize that their talent is struggling amid a world of work that looks very different from what it did a few years ago. And while mental health issues have existed, well…forever, its inclusion within corporate consciousness is relatively recent:

  • In 2019, employers were just starting to grasp the prevalence of these challenges, the need to address stigma, and the emerging link to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).
  • In 2020, mental health support went from a nice-to-have to a true business imperative.
  • With 2021 came a greater awareness of the workplace factors that can contribute to poor mental health, as well as heightened urgency around Belonging and Inclusion.
  • As countries opened their borders again and companies resumed activity in 2022, we have tested these waters even further with a number of challenges, such as:
    • Talent Shortages
    • Disparity of Employees (Complex work structures, more widespread locations)
    • Duty of Care
    • Business Culture
    • Employer Brand/Reputation
    • Cost and Productivity
Mental Health in Mobility, and Duty of Care

Hurricanes, wildfires, floods, data breaches… we are rockstars in developing a plan and putting it into action when disaster strikes. Because it’s our job as mobility professionals to anticipate the “what ifs” to keep our mobile talent safe.

Mental health is as much a Duty of Care issue as any hurricane or wildfire. There are years of documented research citing relocation as one of the top three most stressful experiences. But it has, at best, been indirectly addressed as part of the overall Employee Experience, and sometimes at worst, has been invisible and left to the employee to deal with.

Mental health is as much a Duty of Care issue as any hurricane or wildfire.

More recent research shows a higher volume of employees are leaving their jobs for mental health reasons, and the ones staying are drawing a line with “Quiet Quitting”; a movement of burned-out employees who are drawing a firm line between what their job entails, and what is being expected of them.

The Demographics of Mental Health Challenges

Mental health challenges are now the norm among employees across all organizational levels. A staggering 76% reported at least one symptom of a mental health condition in the past year, up from 59% in 2019. But there are notable differences in certain demographics:

  • Younger and underrepresented workers still struggle the most. There has been a notable increase among both Millennials and Gen Zers who have left roles for mental health reasons, both voluntarily and involuntarily.
  • Historically underrepresented groups, including LGBTQ+, Black, and LatinX respondents were more likely to leave roles for their mental health.

These statistics emphasize the DEI implications of mental health challenges. In fact, 54% of all respondents said that mental health is a DEI issue, an increase from 41% in 2019.

But C-level and executive EEs are not immune to mental health issues. The latest data showed that C-level and executive respondents are now actually more likely than others to report at least one mental health symptom. Perhaps this was a result of having to lead through the pandemic.

Good News Ahead?

The good news: some companies are cluing into the intrinsic link between the mental wellness of their workforce and the success of their organization. One-third of employers in a survey by the Mental Health Commission of Canada reported increasing their coverage for psychological services during the pandemic. Similarly, a U.S. survey highlights how health plans are improving access to mental health services by bringing more high-quality providers into their networks, and helping patients find available mental health appointments. But the conversation still continues around how organizations are specifically addressing mental wellness as it relates to relocation (a conversation that we hope leads to much more action in the year ahead).

Stay tuned for more insight around the mental health epidemic, the employee experience, and how to promote a resilient mobile workforce. In the meantime, we’re always here to talk.

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Written by Jennifer Connell


Jennifer Connell, SCRP, SGMS-T, is Vice President of Weichert’s Advisory Services group. She has over 25 years of experience in the workforce mobility and employee benefits industries and is a recipient of Worldwide ERC’s Distinguished Service Award. She has spoken on workforce mobility topics at industry conferences throughout North America and written for mobility- and HR-themed blogs and magazines worldwide.

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