According to research by consultancy firm Accenture, two-thirds of workers in the UK have personally experienced mental health challenges.
The survey of more than 2,000 workers revealed that mental health issues are far more prevalent than the one in four figure that is often cited. For three out of four people, mental health challenges — either their own or those of others — had affected their ability to enjoy life, with 30 per cent reporting they are “occasionally, rarely, or never” able to enjoy and take part fully in everyday life.
Although the vast majority of respondents (82 per cent) expressed a willingness to speak openly about mental health issues, the workplace has failed to keep pace. Just one in five reported an improvement in workplace training over the last few years to help manage their own mental health or to help them support colleagues dealing with mental health challenges.
Of those who had faced a mental health challenge, the majority (61 per cent) had not spoken to anyone at work about it. Half of the survey respondents felt that raising a concern about their mental health might negatively affect their career or prevent them from being promoted in case it was perceived as a sign of weakness.
Yet hiding mental health challenges at work had a negative impact on a majority of those surveyed. More than half (57 percent) reported feeling stressed, more alone, lacking confidence, being less productive, or just “feeling worse”.
Among those who had talked to someone about mental health at work, four in five experienced a positive reaction of empathy or kindness. Overall, employees who reported that their organization has a supportive, open culture around mental health saw reductions in stress levels, a decrease in their feelings of isolation, and an increase in confidence.
In supportive cultures employees are more likely to know how to get help and to find it easy to talk about mental health. Employees in supportive companies are also more motivated than those in companies seen as not supportive; they are twice as likely to say they love their jobs and more likely to plan to stay with their employer for at least the next year.
Commissioned by Accenture Research and conducted in October 2018 through the YouGov Omnibus service, the online survey covered 2,170 employees in a representative sample of the UK working population.
Emma Game of Thompsons Solicitors commented:
"Poor mental health is estimated to cost UK businesses £35 billion a year and is the leading cause of sickness absence in the UK. In 2015, 127 million hours of work was lost due to mental health-related absence. Mental health is an important trade union issue.
"Good mental health in the workplace can lead to increased productivity. Yet many workers who have a mental health issue suffer in silence for fear that they may lose their job because of the stigma associated with mental health. Others may be subject to harassment. Although much good work has been done to raise the profile of mental health issues in the workplace, there is still a stigma attached to mental health conditions Consequently, those who do not feel able to raise their own mental health condition in the workplace and others who do not recognise that they have a mental health condition will remain on the side lines.
"In order to pursue a legal claim an individual has to identify themselves as having a mental health condition and raise it with the employer in order to seek reasonable adjustments. It is therefore important that more is done to encourage both employers and employees to discuss mental health, to discuss policies and procedures specific to mental health and also to ensure that working conditions and performance management are consistent with promoting mental health wellbeing at work for all."
To read more, go to the Accenture website.