The vast majority of market research professionals responding to a new Insights Association and Opinium survey say they have struggled with their mental health during the past 12 months – 83% compared to 50% of the general workforce. Elevated stress is a key factor. Among the leading sources of stress within insights: Impending Deadlines – 48% of research professionals reported this as a stressor vs. 13% for all U.S. workers, and High Workload: 47% vs. 19% for all U.S. workers

A bright spot: the insights sector is an environment with above-average compassion and understanding. Three in five research professionals have told someone at work about their mental health problems (58% compared to only 38% among U.S. professionals at large). Of research professionals who did take time off for mental health problems, fewer felt guilty for doing so (46%) than U.S. workers at large (56%). Research professionals are also less likely to feel pressured to come back to work early (33%) compared to U.S. workers (52%).

The newly released report, “Opening the Conversation: Mental Well-being in Insights”, included 482 responses from IA members working in research – spanning agency, in-house teams, suppliers, and freelance. It is the first report of its kind in the U.S. and was modeled after the study, championed by the MRS with support from Opinium, in the UK, and also conducted in Australia this year by The Research Society. Partnering with IA on the study is New York-based insight agency Opinium, which deployed its workplace mental wellbeing audit and compiled the report.

“Having operated in this industry for decades, I fully appreciate the stress and workload issues that are so prevalent in our industry, but it is still alarming to see such pervasive mental health concerns amongst our colleagues,” commented Melanie Courtright, CEO of the Insights Association. “This data makes it clear that this is a monumental issue that must be urgently addressed at the highest levels of companies. For too long there has been a stigma attached to mental wellness in the workplace. The time has come for these conversations to come out of the shadows and take center stage.”    

On September 11, the Inisights Association hosted a Virtual Town Hall focused on mental well-being. It included a deep dive into the report along with recommendations for businesses, and featured expert advice on workplace wellness programs. A follow-up session, which will include acclaimed psychologist Dr. Joti Samra as well as insights company leaders, is scheduled for October 8.

A candid look at mental health is essential at this time when the pandemic, economic distress and social unrest weigh heavily on our minds. Through this study, IA is determined to not only attain better understanding of the state of mental well-being in our industry and identify underlying issues, but also point out barriers that impede improvment.

“Though our data demonstrates that the insights industry has been ahead of the curve in rolling out mental wellbeing initiatives, we have more work to do as an industry and we hope this report helps kick start the conversation on research teams across the country,” commented Opinium CEO James Endersby.

Among many notable data points in the study…

Younger workers at higher risk – Research professionals (under 35) and/or in more junior roles are more prone to mental health issues and are struggling more with anxieties and negative attitudes towards opening up about the issue in the workplace. 9 in 10 research professionals under 35 have experienced some sort of mental health problem in the past 12 months.

Heavy workloads a critical problem – Not only does this cause stress, it is often cited as a reason employees don’t carve out the necessary time off. Only one in three research professionals have taken time off for their mental health (30%), much fewer than U.S. workers at large (46%).

Help needed – 2 in 5 research professionals are offered employee assistance programs and just 5% have used them.

Lockdown Life a mixed bag – 52% say they have a better work-life balance now that they are working from home and 94% want to continue to work from home in some capacity post-lockdown. Still, 46% admit they are working longer hours and 46% find it hard to draw boundaries between work and rest.

Employers get high marks for their handling of the pandemic. Over three quarters (77%) said their company’s handling of the pandemic was good of which 47% said it was very good.

The full report may be accessed here.