Awareness of mental health and how it impacts every other area of life is growing. Not only in hospitals and schools but also in the workplace. It’s common sense that happier employees will be more loyal, take fewer sick days and will be more focused and productive at work. Research confirms that mental health support at work is the way forward. Life is stressful, there are so many daily pressures and those fortunate employees that have an outlet will be the ones that can ‘reset to zero’ and get back to the job at hand.
Mental Health Statistics
- 16% of UK employees called in sick because of stress in 2012/13 (Friends Life research, October 2013)
- £460m – daily cost to employers in wasted wages due to sickness resulting from stress (Friends Life research, October 2013)
- 19.9% – percentage of long-term absence caused by stress-related mental ill-health and home or family issues. (Group Risk Development, 2012 Employer Research )
- 47% – percentage of UK employees with access to an EAP (UK Employee Assistance Professionals Association, EAP Market Watch , published in July 2013)
- 10% – average percentage of a workforce that will use an EAP, including online services (UK Employee Assistance Professionals Association, EAP Market Watch , published in July 2013)
- As many as 42% of employees call in sick claiming to be suffering from a physical illness when the real reason is a mental health issue, according to a report by health insurance provider BHSF.
- The report, Hiding in plain sight: mental health in the workplace, published in September 2018, surveyed 1,001 full-time employees. The study found that over half of respondents (56%) suffered from stress, a third (36%) from anxiety and a quarter (25%) from depression.
- Only 15% of respondents said they would tell their boss if they were struggling with mental health issues. Reasons for not divulging problems include fear of not being promoted, the information resulting in poor grading at assessment and being seen as a weak link in the team.
- Nearly two-thirds (63%) of employees felt that mental health was stigmatised by either all or some of their colleagues.
Dr Philip McCrea, chief medical officer at BHSF, said: “The scale of this problem is huge, and it is being massively underestimated by employers, with employees feeling that they have to mask the issues they are facing.
“Although shocking, these findings don’t surprise me. This report must provide a reality check for employers who need to be more proactive and focus on early intervention. A more open culture must be created in workplaces across the UK, and employers have to take responsibility for this change.”
- As many as 88% of respondents said work was either the main cause or a contributing factor to their mental health problems. However, only a fifth (21%) of employees received dedicated mental health support from their employer.
- The average employee takes 8.4 sick days each year due to a mental health problem, according to the BHSF report.
Dr McCrea said: “Mental health is currently costing the UK economy billions, and the cost of non-intervention is far greater than the cost of intervention. It’s up to employers to take a proactive approach to managing mental health in the workplace before it’s too late.
“Developing early intervention strategies is critical. This includes the provision of mental health first-aiders, providing adequate mental health training for managers and resilience-building for employees, among other things.”
- A fifth (20%) of employer respondents organise counselling for their employees in order to support staff mental health, according to research by insurance organisation Aviva and the British Chambers of Commerce.
- Their survey of 1,020 UK organisations also found that 35% of respondents provide flexible working options to help support employees with potential mental health problems.
The research also found:
- 36% of respondents review individual workloads to help support staff with their mental health, while 18% train managers to better support employees.
- 49% of respondents do not access occupational healthsupport for their staff from external bodies, and 10% are not aware of any available support.
- 29% of respondents have seen an increase in the number of employees taking time off work for mental health reasons.
- 33% of respondents have observed an increase in the length of time employees are taking off work because of mental health issues.
Adam Marshall , director general at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “As the world of work changes, it is absolutely crucial for business leaders to pay ever closer attention to the health and wellbeing of their employees, especially at a time when firms are facing severe challenges finding and retaining the skilled staff they need.
“While legions of [organisations] are now more aware of mental health concerns and acting accordingly, far too many businesses are still turning a blind eye to this issue, which saps productivity, morale and individual wellbeing. Our message today is that it is no longer acceptable for [employers] to ignore mental health in the workplace, and all [organisations] need to step up [its] game.”
Dr Doug Wright, medical director at Aviva, added: “It is encouraging to see that more businesses are not only more aware of the topic of mental health in the workplace, but are also actively offering initiatives like flexible working options to help encourage a healthy work-life balance.
“It is, however, worrying to see almost a third of businesses have seen an increase in people taking time off for mental health reasons, and [while] some of this increase may be down to staff feeling more able to discuss the issue of mental health which is, in itself, good news, it also suggests that more can be done to help.”
Options for support
Thankfully, there are a number of options that can help support employees. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy that helps people manage their problems by changing the way they think and behave. CBT is most effective for conditions where anxiety or depression is the main problem. Many employers now recognise the benefits of online CBT techniques. These tools are suitable for those with mild to moderate stress, anxiety and depression.
Happy and healthy employees are the driving force behind every successful business. But if employers don’t provide their staff with the right training, support and tools, absenteeism is likely to become a growing concern.
Creating a culture of health is vital to an organisation’s success. Employees who feel that the employer they work for cares about their overall health and wellbeing are more likely to be motivated, engaged and are less likely to leave. Educating employees to ensure they are comfortable accessing self-help tools or calling helplines is also vital.