New College Hires Need Employer Mental Health Support – Here’s How

Population Health & Well-Being

New College Hires Need Employer Mental Health Support – Here’s How

For many recent graduates, summer is the start of their careers and entrance into the workforce. The mental health state of new hires can vary depending on individual college experiences and circumstances. It is important to acknowledge that the pandemic has significantly impacted mental health across the population, including recent graduates. This is no minor issue; a recent survey found that 69% of graduates entering the workforce think the pandemic’s impact on their mental health has made them less prepared than they would have been.1

The good news is that by fostering a supportive work environment and offering resources for mental well-being, employers can contribute to the mental health and overall success of new college hires during this transition.

The following are common aspects of the mental health state of new college hires post-pandemic and what leading employers can do to help:

Heightened Stress and Anxiety

Transitioning from college to the professional world can be overwhelming and anxiety-filled, especially in the hybrid working environment, many now will enter.

What you can do to help address:

  • Clear Expectations: Set clear and realistic expectations for new hires. Ensure they understand their roles, responsibilities and performance objectives. Uncertainty about what’s expected can increase anxiety and providing a structured and comprehensive orientation can help alleviate stress.
  • Supportive Onboarding: Design an onboarding program that includes an introduction to the company culture, team members and the available mental health resources. Having a buddy or mentor assigned to the new hire can help them navigate the workplace and build relationships, even (or perhaps especially) in a hybrid or fully remote work environment.
  • Open Communication: Encourage open communication and provide multiple channels for new hires to seek help or ask questions. An approachable management style will help new employees feel comfortable discussing their concerns.

Emotional Fatigue

Extended periods of isolation, remote learning and limited social interaction may have contributed to emotional fatigue among college students. Emotional fatigue can arise from various factors, including the stress of adapting to a new work environment or change in city/state, meeting expectations, and building new friendships and relationships. The loss of in-person connections and the challenges of remote education and work can lead to feelings of loneliness, sadness and burnout.

What you can do to help address:

  • Recognize the Signs: Train managers and team leaders to recognize the signs of emotional fatigue, such as decreased motivation, mood swings, withdrawal and/or a decline in performance. With the use of webinars and mental health first aide training for leaders, early identification allows for timely intervention.
  • Provide Access to Resources: Communicate and market targeted referrals to mental health services such as mindfulness programs and Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), as these are often free and valuable resources not just to new college hires but also to employees who have adult college-age children addressing similar issues.
  • Encourage Team Bonding: Facilitate virtual or in-person team-building activities and social events to help new hires feel more connected and integrated into the workplace culture. Acknowledge and celebrate the accomplishments. This positive reinforcement can boost morale, connection and motivation.
Dr. Joel Axler

National Behavioral Health Leader