Are you a millennial reading this at work? If so, you’re probably depressed.
A recent study conducted by employee assistance firm Bensinger, DuPont & Associates found that when compared to baby boomers and Gen X-ers, millennials were the most depressed generation. One in five of the young'uns seeks employee assistance of some kind for depression.
The study, "Depression and Work: The Impact of Depression on Different Generations of Employees," highlighted the impact of “presenteeism,” which is when you go to work but feel you can’t function at your full capacity because of the effects of depression.
Seventy percent of millennials (people born between 1978 and 1999) reported having felt that way, more than Gen-X (people born between 1965 and 1977) at 68 percent and baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) at 63 percent. Those are all appalling high levels of misery in the workplace, but millennials are really depressed.
Why, though, is the 1978-1999 generation the most depressive? Lynne Lancaster, co-author of the book When Generations Collide, told OZY that “organizations think millennials want to do everything remotely, but the truth is they’re more relational and use technology to enhance their connection with family, friends and colleagues.” Young people are good at technology, they enjoy technology. That doesn't mean they necessarily prefer it to IRL human interactions.
The study suggests that employers should help train their workers to cope with depression. Maybe we could suggest another approach: Design workplaces to be less depressing, or at least more invigorating and supportive. Many millennials graduated into a bum economy and are working without the pay, benefits, or security their parents and grandparents could expect. But the huge, cross-generational dissatisfaction points to deeper troubles in the American workplace. If Lancaster's approach is correct, we could start by making them more humane places, connected not by Skype and Slack, but by person-to-person interaction.