Workplace Stress

Young and New Workers

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the prevalence of mental illness is highest in young adults aged 18-25 years. Young workers, as well as anyone who is starting a new job (regardless of age), may find it stressful to start a new job and lack long-term ties and relationships with their boss and co-workers. In a hybrid workplace, these workers might not receive adequate in-person training and mentoring, and they may feel confused about their job duties and expectations, unsure where to go for guidance, and concerned they will not perform well. The following identify actions employers can take to help young and new workers feel more secure and less isolated:

  • Invite new employees to meet with leadership. CEOs, Presidents, and other organizational leaders could consider scheduling “Getting to Know You” meetings periodically throughout the year to reserve time to meet with new employees, learn about their backgrounds, and give them an opportunity to ask questions. Doing so can be an important team-building exercise.
  • Get to know young and new workers quickly, check on them often, and consider mentoring programs. Young and new workers may have a hard time feeling like they are part of the team. To address that, supervisors and co-workers should make a concerted effort to reach out to them and actively pull them into the fold. One example to accomplish this is to create a “buddy system,” which involves asking co-workers to look after each other and instructing them to call or e-mail their buddy weekly or biweekly to ask how they are doing. Mentoring programs can also be very beneficial, both professionally and emotionally. Not only does assigning a mentor to someone demonstrate the organization is invested in helping the new worker grow, but it can also jumpstart the formation of a workplace friendship and offer a confidante. Reverse mentoring can also make a new employee feel like a valued team member. This involves finding ways for new workers to mentor more established workers (e.g., having new workers help an older worker improve their social media skills).
  • Enhance onboarding and orientation programs. In addition to formal training, workers normally rely on various informal channels to learn about an organization’s operational practices. For example, they learn by observing other workers, dropping into someone’s office to ask questions, or absorbing tips and information during lunchtime or “water cooler” discussions. Employers should enhance their orientation and onboarding programs, and establish a virtual onboarding program to pull new workers together regularly to deliver information about operational practices; help them create a supportive network where they can openly chat about their onboarding questions (e.g., filling out human resources paperwork); deliver planned presentations from leadership; expand on the organization’s goals and objectives; and help workers understand their role in the organization’s success.
  • Be aware of the mental health challenges that young people face. Some studies suggest that young people may be disproportionately affected by mental health challenges. Employers can help their young workers by demonstrating empathy and ask whether there is certain support they need. As a starting point, employers could consider developing a peer-support group for young workers to help them connect with and support one another and identify areas where they might collectively need more help from leadership to succeed in their new positions. Employers should also reinforce an open dialogue with this demographic of workers and encourage them to speak up.