Four-fifths of UK employees state poor mental wellbeing impacts their work

poor mental wellbeing

Four-fifths (80%) of UK employees who have struggled with poor mental wellbeing believe that this has impacted on their work, according to research by insight agency Opinium and the University of Warwick.

The Workplace mental wellbeing report, which surveyed 2,009 UK employees aged 18 or over, also found that 67% of those individuals who had struggled with their mental wellbeing had never told their employer; 23% felt too embarrassed, 24% believed their employer would be unable to help, and 19% thought it might jeopardise their career.

Only 36% of employees who have experienced mental ill-health have taken time off work for this within the last 12 months, although 54% of this group felt pressure to return to work before they were ready.

Many employees reported feeling unable to take time off in order to care for their mental wellbeing. A quarter (25%), for example, felt their organisation would not understand, 28% did not think that mental ill-health would be a valid reason and 30% simply wanted to keep their situation to themselves.

Sophie Holland, senior research executive at Opinium, said: “Clearly there are still significant barriers preventing employees from talking about their mental wellbeing to their employers, and this needs to change.

“Culture is key here. Employers need to work to create safe spaces where their employees feel comfortable talking about mental health and wellbeing, both good and bad experiences, allowing employees to bring their full selves to work. However, it is also important that workplaces have the support structures and initiatives in place.

“Every workplace is different, and different teams may need different initiatives to support them. Therefore, it is vital that employers listen to their employees and understand what works best for them.”

A fifth (21%) of respondents would like access to mental health days, but currently only 5% do. Other initiatives that staff would value include flexible working (17%), monitoring of mental wellbeing via surveys (16%) and counselling or an employee assistance programme (EAP) (16%).

Although 35% of staff are not offered any support from their employer when it comes to their mental health, the most commonly offered initiatives include space to take breaks (29%), flexible or remote working arrangements (24%) and access to counsellors or an EAP (18%).

Around half (49%) of managers do not know how to support employee mental wellbeing in the workplace, and 66% state that they would know what to do if an employee directly told them that they were struggling.

Of those employees that were marked as enjoying above average mental wellbeing, based on the Warwick-Edinburgh scale, 31% participated in a mentoring scheme, 29% had access to a mental health first aider, 29% were subject to enforced, mandatory breaks and 28% took part in an exercise or recreational class at lunch or after work.

Sarah Stewart-Brown, spokesperson at the University of Warwick, added: “We developed this scale because it captures so much more about mental health than scales which measure mental illness.

“Mental wellbeing is about thriving, not just surviving. Employees with good mental wellbeing feel good and function well. Quantifying mental wellbeing helps organisations to focus on what [it is] doing right. Tracking scores over time highlights effective strategies and promotes wider understanding of mental wellbeing.”