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All this talk about workplace mental health is a new thing, isn’t it?

You could be forgiven for thinking that workplace mental ill-heath is a new thing. Because everyone seems to be talking about it at the moment. And on a scale never known before.

But you’d be entirely wrong to think that. 

Because even before the pandemic, it was clear to UK employers that stress was the main reason for workplace absence.

Workplace mental health before the pandemic

Research by the mental health charity MIND showed that work-related mental ill-health was costing businesses up to £26 billion every year. 

Of that:

  • Staff turnover cost UK businesses £2.4 billion
  • Presenteeism cost £15.1 billion

Presenteeism is defined by an employee who works through their illness. They can’t do their job properly because of a mental health problem.

Overall, 70 million working days were lost pre-pandemic annually because of mental ill-health.

Has the pandemic affected workplace mental health?

As you can imagine, the pandemic has now made this situation worse. Especially for younger and more disadvantaged employees, such as those from minorities.

In July 2021, Business in the Community asked an interesting question: ‘What if your job was good for you?’.

Their report showed that 41% of employees had experienced a mental health problem in 2019. And those problems were either caused or made worse by work. Imagine if that many people had been physically hurt in their workplace! 

In 2020, those figures had increased. They showed that:

  • 69% were experiencing a mental health problem;
  • 57% of those working at home felt excessive demands caused the problem, and
  • 46% of those working in the workplace also felt added pressure.

That’s no surprise when you consider that the working week increased by 12.5 hours in the last year. 

What can we do about workplace mental health?

We know how vital it can be to talk to someone if you’re experiencing a problem with your mental health. But the report showed that:

  • 56% of respondents would talk about their problems to anyone, and
  • Only 17% would discuss their mental ill-health at work

Of those who talked to their line manager or HR department:

  • 12% faced career disadvantages
  • 44% said nothing was done to help them

How are organisations dealing with poor mental health in the workplace?

Fortunately, more and more organisations are starting to prioritise improving mental health. And, more usefully, trying to prevent poor mental health among their employees. 

75% of respondents in the survey feel that their bosses are putting employee wellbeing on the agenda. That’s an improvement from the previous year’s 61%, demonstrating increased awareness of the issue.

Which is a good thing. 

On the other hand:

  • Just 25% of organisations in the survey have increased their health and wellbeing budget, and
  • Only half of the organisations in the survey have a wellbeing strategy in place.

You can read more about creating a workplace mental health policy on our blog.

Only 43% of managers have received training in how to manage employees with poor mental health. And this is borne out by the 38% of employees who think that their managers would be capable of holding sensitive conversations and accessing help for their team members. 

What are the implications of these statistics for mental health in the workplace?

There is a sense that we can’t return to how things were before the pandemic. This could be a unique opportunity to change the world of work for the better.  We can reassess our work priorities and put people first. We can create workplaces and jobs that will promote good mental health and wellbeing. 

MIND has reported that 60% of employees said they’d feel more motivated and more likely to recommend their organisation to others if their employer actively promoted workplace mental health. MIND also confirmed that FTSE 100 companies that prioritise employee engagement and wellbeing outperform the other FTSE 100 companies by 10%!

In the past, it was expected that you would keep your private life out of the workplace. But mental ill-health affects the whole person in every aspect of their life: at work and at home. So how or why the problem has come about is actually irrelevant And – anyway – work can often make the situation worse.

A more understanding and less judgemental approach could be the difference between an employee continuing to be productive or leaving the organisation.  

But the best thing to come out of the pandemic is simply that everyone is now talking about mental health. We’re recognising how important it is. And that’s a good thing because mental ill health can lose its stigma if it is regarded in the same way as physical health.

You can read more about mental health and wellbeing in the workplace on our blog. And if you would like our help in bringing about healthy change to your organisation, read on.

How can SupportRoom help my company? 

Here, at SupportRoom, we offer employee therapy for small to medium businesses. Our platform allows employees to receive therapy on-demand from a  dedicated, qualified therapist.

Our SME Employee Support platform is designed to give insightful data that allows your employees to track their progress and monitor their own mental and physical health.

Book a free demo here.


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