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Staff wellbeing becomes critical business issue in China

Millennial Survey reveals surge in younger employees in China taking time off work due to stress

Published: 21 October 2020

The good news for employers in China is that Millennials and Gen Zs feel less anxiety or stress than their counterparts elsewhere. The not-so-good news is an average of more than one-third still say they experience anxiety or stress "all or most of the time".

That is according to the Deloitte Millennial Survey report, which this year presents the results of two surveys of 800 Millennials and Gen Zs in China—an initial survey conducted prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, and a "pulse" survey carried out as the full impact of the pandemic was emerging.

Job and career prospects are the biggest sources of respondents' stress and anxiety, and to a much greater extent than they were in the pre COVID-19 era, particularly among Gen Z. In the initial survey, only 30% of stressed-out Gen Z respondents in China said job and career prospects were the biggest worry, but the figure surged to more than 55% in the wake of the pandemic.

COVID-19 has also raised awareness among respondents about stress as a factor in their performance at work, an area in which Millennials are the most affected. The pulse survey found more than 70% of Chinese Millennials who have taken time off work told their employers this was due to stress, up from 45% in the initial survey.

"It's great that employees feel more comfortable raising the issue of mental health, but are employers in China accounting for Millennials and Gen Zs' growing need for support in this area?" says Deloitte China Chief Talent Officer Jungle Wong. "If they haven't, then they need to, and soon."

"Less anxiety and stress among employees is a win-win situation for everyone. It doesn't just lead to fewer days taken off work and better staff performance, enhancing overall productivity and work quality, but also makes for more loyal workers, which is a key issue in China."

The pandemic has unsurprisingly impacted many aspects of people's work and personal lives. In the pulse survey, Millennials and Gen Zs in China were less likely than their counterparts elsewhere to say their employment and income has been affected by the pandemic. However, 14% of Chinese Millennials and 29% of Gen Z said these things have been affected, and Millennials and Gen Zs in China are more likely than their counterparts elsewhere to have been asked to work fewer hours, or work longer hours with no pay.

Job security, or at least respondents' sense of it, has also been hit by COVID-19. Despite respondents in China being more likely to say their employers have supported workers during the pandemic, 62% of Gen Zs in China now expect to leave their current employers within two years, according to the pulse survey, compared to just 50% in the primary survey, and a mere 6% of Gen Zs now expect to stay with their current employers for more than five years.

"COVID-19 has clearly changed the sentiment of Millennials and Gen Zs towards their employers—companies in China will have to work harder to retain staff," concludes Jungle Wong. "Although they generally feel more optimistic about the future than their peers elsewhere, Millennials and Gen Zs in China still want to be less stressed and have a better work-life balance, parents in particular want the option of working from home, and they want to feel able to bring their 'true selves' to work."

Explore the full survey results here. (Simplified Chinese only)

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