May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and to honor the occasion, Moser Consulting wants to elevate and discuss the emerging awareness of mental health in technology and IT industries. In a survey of tech professionals by the nonprofit Open Sourcing Mental Illness (OSMI), 51% of tech professionals shared that they had been diagnosed with a mental health disorder in the past. This is significantly higher than the average 21% of American adults who are affected by mental illness.
Do the “crunch culture” and isolated work environments of the tech industry exacerbate these illnesses? Do individuals coping with anxiety, depression, or other disorders find themselves naturally drawn to tech? Let’s explore the intersection between the tech industry and mental health, as well as the trends in mental wellness tech employers can take advantage of to support their employees.
Working in Technology and Mental Health Facts
There are well-known pros and cons of technology on mental health, both in and outside the workplace. On the positive side, tech tools can provide a valuable outlet to relieve tech professionals of concerns around the stigma of mental illness. Using an app to talk with a mental health professional or even with an artificial intelligence can feel safer and more comfortable than having an in-person discussion about the same issues.
Though technology products may be part of the solution to the hidden mental health crisis in tech, the work cultures that get these products created are a serious contributor to the problem. More than many other industries, tech employees are working in high-stakes environments with tight deadlines, and may be encouraged or outright pressured to forego needs like sleep, healthy food, and exercise in favor of staying in front of the screen to get the job done. This is especially true at startups, where founders are twice as likely to suffer from depression and 10x more likely to suffer from bipolar disorder, among many other high-risk categories. In tech culture, where moving fast is prioritized, there may not be space to carry out the healing and self-care necessary to weather common conditions like depression and anxiety.
The most common mental health disorders among tech professionals are:
- Mood disorders like depression and bipolar disorder-- 74% of reported diagnoses
- Anxiety disorders like generalized anxiety, social anxiety, and phobias-- 51% of reported diagnoses
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)—19.5% of reported diagnoses
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—13% of reported diagnoses
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)—8% of reported diagnoses
These statistics reveal that many tech professionals may be coping with multiple mental illnesses at once, making visibility, understanding, and support for these conditions essential in a tech workplace. Another contributing factor is that marginalized and underrepresented populations in tech like women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ professionals are among higher risk populations for these disorders. When someone is already concerned about being minimized or seen as weak by their colleagues and supervisors, it may make discussing these conditions even more difficult.
31% of tech professionals would not feel comfortable having a discussion with their direct supervisor about mental health needs, while another 32% are unsure if they would feel comfortable or not. This means a majority of tech employees would feel some discomfort around these conversations, sometimes to the extent that the conversation would not happen at all.
What are the 7 Components of Mental Health?
The 7 components of mental health are also known as the 7 elements of self-care, or 7 dimensions of well-being. These are:
- Physical Health: Elements of physical health include eating a balanced diet, using alcohol and other substances in moderation, exercise, and getting enough sleep.
- Intellectual Health: Elements of intellectual health include learning new things, engaging in creative activities, and having time to reflect on learning in a way that grows personal insight.
- Emotional Health: Elements of emotional health include expressions of love, gratitude, empathy, and other emotions, as well as the availability of safe resources to help with fear modulation when anxiety strikes.
- Social Health: Elements of social health include meaningful personal connections that contribute to life in a positive way and make someone feel seen, heard, and valued.
- Vocational Health: Elements of vocational health include using personal skills, talents, and strengths to enrich one’s own life and the lives of others.
- Spiritual Health: Elements of spiritual health include a set of core beliefs, values, and ethics that provide direction, as well as the ability to live in alignment with these values and morals. These beliefs do not have to be drawn from religion.
- Environmental Health: Elements of environmental health include a sense of safety, comfort, and connection with physical surroundings.
Tech employers that want to prioritize the mental health of employees can start with an understanding of how each of these elements of mental health is manifested in their workplace. If you identify areas that are lacking, engaging employees in the conversation about how to improve is a great step toward transparency and demonstrating the intention to grow.
Tech Workplaces: What’s Trending in Health and Wellness?
Beyond considering organizational alignment that supports employee mental health, employers can also take advantage of current trends to deliver mental health solutions to tech professionals. These might include:
More Flexible Work Arrangements and Leave Policies: After 2020 and the COVID pandemic required many teams to adapt to remote work, many tech businesses are continuing to allow remote work even once it’s safe to return to the office. Considering that 20% of IT workers admitted the new remote work life was a challenge for them to adapt to, a hybrid work arrangement may be the best option. Employers can structure the arrangement by defining some days or times that employees should come to the office and allowing them the option to work from home the rest of the time as they like. This provides each individual the flexibility to adapt and meet their changing needs on a daily basis. The same flexibility can have major additional benefits when extended to the leave and sick time policies. Allowing employees to take “mental health days” that are paid just like other sick days leads to valuable mental reset time that empowers people to refresh and regroup.
Mental Health Inclusion Training: Social justice movements of 2020 made many individuals aware of the need for more focused efforts on diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. Mental health inclusion training can be a valuable study along these lines for managers and business leaders,cultivating empathy and equipping participants with tools and strategies to communicate with their peers who need mental wellness support.
Mental Health Technology Solutions: Tech employers can also make the most of the positive effects of technology on mental health by incorporating virtual therapy apps, meditation apps, mindfulness games, and even wearable technology like biosensors into the employee benefits package. Chatbots, games, immersive virtual reality experiences, and online behavioral health support are all becoming more accepted as tech tools to help employees heal and cope with mental illness.
Moser Consulting is Here to Support Your Tech Team
Moser Consulting has decades of experience in managed services, app development, and systems and cloud services. When outside support is needed to give your existing team a break from the hectic pace, we are here as a resource to supplement their work and support your needs. We also offer learning services like team alignment, emotional intelligence coaching, and leadership coaching for IT and tech managers. If you are interested in supporting the mental health of your tech employees but don’t know where to start, we can come in as a neutral third party to analyze the environment and make recommendations. Whether you know what you need, or want help figuring it out, we are here to support you. Contact us with questions or to receive support.