The empathy disconnect is having a devastating impact on HR’s mental health.
Businessolver’s 2020 State of Workplace Empathy data shows us that, year over year, the empathy gap is only getting wider, and HR is stuck in the middle. The most striking stat from this year’s data are the tanking empathy perceptions and how return to office is affecting HR’s mental wellbeing:
Return to office, invisible mental health benefits, and a lack of belongingness are feeding the empathy disconnect across organizations. Doubly so as CEOs have turned their focus back to the bottom line the midst of a turbulent economic and talent market. Triply so as employees find themselves asking, year over year, for expanded benefits and more flexibility.
HR is forced to mediate between the two, bearing the impossible burden of multi-tasking as therapists, contract negotiators, recruiters, marketers, benefits administrators, culture-builders, compliance experts, risk managers, and more, all while deploying decrees from the c-suite to increasingly skeptical and dissatisfied employees.
HR’s complex workloads and conflicting attitudes from the C-suite and their employee
s are taking a drastic toll on their mental wellbeing. Alongside HR’s personal experience of mental health, a growing number of these same people don’t feel motivated at work, nor do they feel that their company values empathy as part of their workplace culture.
But this should not be a shock. HR is forced to navigate an impossible workload and constantly shifting expectations, all with very little say in the matter.
Three years ago, organizations looked at HR’s expanded workload as a temporary inconvenience to help navigate the unknowns of the pandemic. But three years later, as organizations get back to normal, HR’s workload hasn’t changed a bit. And this crushing list of priorities and conflicts is taking a toll on their mental wellbeing.
Mental health benefits have been a top priority since Businessolver has been studying workplace empathy. Yet year over year, our data shows that offered benefits and benefits usage are greatly misaligned with employee’s expectations and needs.
Our data shows that there’s an average 60-point disparity between the benefits employees and HR value for their mental wellbeing versus what’s available to them through their employer. Worse still is that there’s an additional average 20-point gap between what’s offered and what’s being used—even if those benefits are highly desired, such as mental health coverage or flexible work hours.
These large gaps speak to yet another HR struggle: benefits administration and engagement. And if that wasn’t stressful enough, HR often finds themselves on the hook for low utilization as many employees look to them to be good stewards of their wellbeing and their “healthcare marketers” for all benefits. But what’s often overlooked is that HR’s benefits strategy is only as good as their technology and tools to deploy it—much of which is often outdated or non-existent.
The empathy gap between CEOs and HR and employees continues to grow, but our 2023 State of Workplace Empathy data reveals that it’s not a lack of empathy driving the disconnect, but a lack of understanding among all three groups. The empathy disconnect is driving a culture clash that’s aggravated by a lack of access to or visibility of mental health benefits and a burned-out team of HR professionals.
HR burnout and mental health benefits visibility won’t be solved overnight, but employers are quickly running out of time to recalibrate HR’s workload and arm them with tools and technology to help them navigate the complexities of their workforce. As we see the long-term impact of the empathy disconnect play out in culture and benefits, employers must also realize how the empathy gap translates to their bottom line in the form of retention, recruitment, and motivation.
Read the latest insights in this year’s State of Workplace Empathy: Mental Health Special Report.