ResearchBITC says ‘work is creating mental health issues for two in five employees’

Mental Health at Work 2019 - Time to Take Ownership Report, shows that most employers do not acknowledge or deal with the adverse impact work has on employees’ mental health.
Content Team5 years ago9 min

A report released by Business in the Community (BITC), in partnership with Mercer Marsh Benefits and BITC’s Wellbeing Leadership Team, Mental Health at Work 2019 – Time to Take Ownership, shows that most employers do not acknowledge or deal with the adverse impact work has on employees’ mental health.

Two in five (39 per cent) UK workers experienced symptoms of poor mental health related to work in the past year.

Of the 39 per cent of employees surveyed who have experienced poor mental health due to work, a third (33 per cent) said that this was caused by negative work relationships. Almost one in four (24 per cent) of those with work-related mental health problems explicitly cited bullying and harassment from their manager as a major cause. The report is based on YouGov survey data from more than 4,000 employees.

Mental and physical health needs to be considered equally important by employers. The report sets out recommendations to show businesses how to create positive, inclusive workplace cultures that help rather than harm the mental health of the people who work for them. These recommendations are proposed by BITC, Mercer Marsh Benefits and nine key national partners.

Other report findings:

  • The survey revealed a significant disconnect between company board members’ perceptions of how mental health is treated within their companies and what the rest of the organisation thinks.
  • More than half (51 per cent) of those at a chief executive or board level believed that their organisation effectively supports its staff, compared with 38 per cent of those without line management responsibilities.
  • There are barriers to managers providing effective support with more than six in ten (62 per cent) managers saying they have had to put the interest of their organisation above staff wellbeing.
  • Only seven per cent of all employees have received training to recognise workplace stress factors.
  • One in three (33 per cent) with mental health problems said that they felt ignored.
  • About one in ten (9 per cent) were subject to disciplinary action, demotion or dismissal following the disclosure of mental health issues.
  • One in ten workers resigned as a result, a figure that has plateaued since 2017.

More than six in ten (62 per cent) of managers said they had to put their company’s interests above staff wellbeing (every day, often or sometimes).

Based on the report findings, BITC has made three calls to action for businesses to help achieve better mental health for the UK workforce:

  1. Create good work that enhances mental health. Good work is created by elements including security, fair pay and professional development.
  2. Acknowledge and support employees experiencing poor mental health, whatever the cause.
  3. Publicly report your wellbeing performance.

52 per cent of those experiencing mental health problems related to work say this is due to pressure such as too many priorities or targets.

Louise Aston, wellbeing campaign director at BITC, said:

“While mental health awareness has risen significantly in recent years, our research shows that too many employers are tinkering at the edges of change rather than making the fundamental differences that are really needed to improve their employees’ mental health.

“People who come to work don’t expect to be physically injured and they should also not expect to be psychologically harmed. A profound cultural shift is paramount so that work itself doesn’t cause poor mental health but instead should enhance it.

“Those who want to be the best employers to attract top talent must remove the barriers to improving wellbeing, retention and productivity. Businesses are at their best when people are at their best. Let’s ensure people can bring their whole selves to work and thrive while they’re there.”

Tony Wood, partner & UK leader, Mercer Marsh Benefits, said:

“Despite some signs of improvements, more action is needed to improve workplace mental health. Instead of pushing managers towards tactical ‘band-aid’ solutions, company leaders need to think strategically. Doing the right thing for their employees is also doing the right thing for their business.

“By encouraging empathy and an inclusive workplace culture, built on a foundation of psychological safety, companies can ensure lasting change in how we deal with mental health problems.”

David Oldfield, group director, commercial banking, Lloyds Banking Group and chair of the Wellbeing Leadership Team at BITC said:

“This report clearly shows that businesses need to do everything they can to create a culture of accountability and transparency where all employees feel supported and that they can be open about their mental health experiences.

“Clear and consistent reporting of employee wellbeing helps to tell the real story of how poor mental health is impacting businesses, and what action we need to take to address the root causes. We know that what gets measured gets managed and mental health needs to be a strategic priority for all businesses.”

For more content on mental health in the workplace, click here

Business in the Community

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Work in Mind is a content platform designed to give a voice to thinkers, businesses, journalists and regulatory bodies in the field of healthy buildings.

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