With a recent national emphasis on mental health, UK employers have never had a better opportunity to start a conversation with their employees about their mental health. With 7 in 10 employees having suffered from a condition that’s related to mental health – from stress to suicidal feelings – there couldn’t be a more important time to engage with employees about their mental health. But are businesses really doing enough to offer support?
To better understand the mental health conditions that UK employees are tackling, and what support they need from their workplace, Benenden, providers of Business Health and Wellbeing services, conducted robust research with over 1,000 employees.
Prevalence of mental health conditions in the workplace
Their research discovered 70% of employees have previously suffered from a condition related to mental health, with stress (42.4%) anxiety (35.2%) depression (35.2%), sleeping problems (34%) and panic attacks (18%) among the most common conditions affecting UK employees. One of the most worrying results from the study is that 14.4% of employees have experienced suicidal feelings.
The research also highlighted that, in the last five years, 55.3% of employees believe their job has become more stressful and two in three (61.3%) think that a good work life balance is more difficult to achieve. An increased workload, financial concerns and workplace bullying are revealed as the main causes of mental health related issues in the work place.
What does this mean for UK business?
The study found that 31.5% of respondents have taken time off work related to a mental health condition, and 43.5% of people who have taken time off from work related to a mental health condition have taken over 10 days off. According to The Office for National Statistics a total of 15.8 million working days were lost last year due to mental health conditions.
More worrying for employers is that 45.6% said they would look for alternative employment if they felt their employer didn’t provide support in relation to mental health conditions. This raises to 50.5% if you look specifically at 18-34 year olds.
The emergence of a tick box culture
Despite the impact on UK businesses, many tend to adopt a tick box culture when dealing with employee mental health in the place of genuine support.
More than half of employees surveyed either don’t have a workplace mental health policy (27.9%) or they don’t know if they have one (26.1%). Perhaps even more troubling, less than one quarter of employees said their company engages regularly with them on issues of mental health (23.8%). It’s hardly surprising to learn that less than 1 in 10 employees would confide in their employer if they were suffering from a mental health condition.
If we want a healthier, happier and more productive workforce, this has to change.
Helen Smith, Head of Wellbeing Strategy at Benenden, commented
“A lot of work has been done to lift the stigma attached to mental health, but clearly employees still feel reticent about talking about their illnesses in the workplace. Fear of what might happen is one reason, but the major concern is the number of businesses that have no clear support system in place to help staff overcome their illnesses. “
“It is important for employers to start creating a culture of openness that enables employees to talk about their mental health. Training is a necessity for all those who manage people and tools that provide valuable advice and support, such as helplines and counselling, are hugely beneficial.
“Mental health is not a myth, it is a real life problem that affects almost everyone. It is time for companies of all sizes to make it an essential part of their long term human resources strategy. If no action is taken it is not just the employee that will suffer, businesses around the country will be impacted by rising absence and a disengaged workforce.”
View the full research report
To find out more about these issues and discover how employers and employees can work together to improve workplace wellbeing and work towards a happier and more productive workforce view the full report.