Leaders Fared Worse When Coping With COVID-19

Image credit: iStockphoto/nensuria

Much of the focus on the ill-effects of the pandemic has been on employees.

But a new study by Oracle and Workplace Intelligence noted that C-suite executives struggled more when they had to cope with the shift in work styles. The Mental Health at Work Requires Attention, Nuance, and Swift Action study also noted that younger generations experienced burnout.  

The study noted that C-Suite executives (53%) said they struggled with mental health issues in the workplace more than their employees (45%). The most significant stress factor is adapting to a virtual form of leadership, with 85% reporting significant remote work challenges. These included collaborating with teams virtually (39%), managing increased stress and anxiety (35%), and lacking workplace culture (34%).

The leadership was also 29% more likely to experience difficulties learning new remote work technologies than employees. But once adjusted, they were 26% more likely to find increased productivity than employees.

The study found C-Suite execs the most open to using AI for help: 73% said they would prefer to talk to a robot (i.e., chatbots and digital assistants) about their mental health over a human compared to 61% of employees. C-Suite execs are also 23% more likely to see AI benefits than employees, with 80% noting that AI has already helped their mental health at work.

When it comes to employee mental health, Gen Z fared worst. Nearly 90% of them said COVID-19 has negatively impacted their mental health, and 94% noted workplace stress affects their home life as well.

Gen Z workers are also two times more likely than Baby Boomers to work extra hours during the pandemic. Millennials are 130% more likely to have experienced burnout than Baby Boomers.

Younger generations are the most likely to turn to robots for support: Gen Z workers are 105% more likely to talk to a robot over their manager about stress and anxiety at work than Baby Boomers. Eighty-four percent of Gen Z and 77% of Millennials prefer robots over humans to help with their mental health.

Gen Z workers are 73 % more likely than Baby Boomers to benefit from AI at work. Ninety percent of them said AI helped their mental health at work, and 93% want their companies to provide technology to support their mental health.

“Amidst the challenges of the pandemic, companies can use this moment as a catalyst for positive change in their organizations,” said Dan Schawbel, managing partner at Workplace Intelligence. “While the pandemic raised the urgency for companies to start protecting the mental health of their employees, the efforts they put in now will continue to create happier, healthier and more engaged workforces in the decades to come.”

The study also highlighted significant differences in the way leadership and employees faced COVID-19 in different countries.

India (89%), U.A.E. (86%), China (83%), and the U.S. (81%) had the most employees reporting that the pandemic has negatively impacted their mental health. Employees in China (43%) and India (32%) are also the most burned out from overwork due to COVID-19.

Italy reported the lowest number of employees experiencing a negative impact on their mental health from the pandemic (65%). German employees were the least likely to report that 2020 was the most stressful year at work ever (52%).

Twenty-nine percent of respondents in Japan say they have not experienced any difficulties at all working remotely or collaborating with teams virtually. In contrast, 96% of people in India admitted it has been challenging to keep up with the pace of technology at work.

There are also differences in seeking AI-based help. Respondents in China (97%) and India (92%) were the most open to having a robot as a therapist or counselor. People in France (68%) and the U.K. (69%) were the most hesitant.

Employees in India and China are also 33% more likely to talk to a robot than their peers in other countries. Both Indian and Chinese employees (91%) said they would prefer a robot over their manager to talk about stress and anxiety at work.

“The pandemic put employee mental health in the global spotlight, but these findings also showed that it created growing support for solutions from employers including technologies like AI,” observed Emily He, senior vice president for Oracle Cloud HCM.

Image credit: iStockphoto/nensuria