Two-thirds of workers would not share mental health problems with their employer, poll finds

Experts warn employees are being left to manage wellbeing issues on their own and urge businesses to engage in conversations and offer targeted support

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Two-thirds of employees would not feel comfortable raising a mental or emotional wellbeing issue with their employer, a survey has found.

The poll of 8,000 UK adults, conducted by Nuffield Health as part of its Healthier Nation Index report, found 66 per cent would not share their mental health struggle with their employer.

It also found that despite 37 per cent of respondents saying their mental health had worsened over the last year, a third (33 per cent) were not offered any physical or emotional wellbeing support at the workplace.

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Gosia Bowling, national lead for emotional Wellbeing at Nuffield Health, said it was “worrying” that the majority of UK employees were being “left to manage mental or emotional wellbeing issues on their own in the workplace”.

“The pandemic has affected the mental health of many employees, so it’s more important than ever that employers find ways to create inclusive and connected workplace environments where people feel supported,” she said, emphasising that this would help productivity and boost happiness levels.

Bowling also encouraged employers to look out for signs of loneliness, urge employees to engage in meaningful conversations and offer targeted mental health support.

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Separate data released this week by Slack also highlighted how post-pandemic challenges were heavily impacting the workforce. Its poll of 1,000 knowledge workers found more than a third (37 per cent) were stressed about going into the office, with nearly half of these (49 per cent) citing concerns over the additional costs such as travel and food.

The same percentage (49 per cent) also cited concerns over work-life balance as a cause of stress when returning to the office,

The Slack poll also found three-quarters (73 per cent) of employees experienced burnout in the past year, and that nearly a third (32 per cent) were working more overtime. Only two in five (38 per cent) of those polled felt their workplace valued their mental health.

Jane Grundy, technical HR consultant at AdviserPlus, warned that businesses could start seeing more workplace absences as a result of poor mental health, and urged employers to monitor how working arrangements were affecting employees.

“The costs associated with this increase in mental health absence are significant. We are seeing lost productivity representing up to 1 per cent of their annual wage bill,” she said.

In addition, Kate Hesk, chief people officer and coaching lead at Cognomie, emphasised the importance of mental health days – where employees take a day off to give their psychological and emotional health some care and attention.

“It’s about that vital break from the draining stress of everyday life – stress which, over time, can become major health issues,” she said. “By encouraging mental health days in your workplace, you’re also normalising conversations and an openness in mental wellbeing culture.”

There were also “real tangible solutions” to everyday stress that employers can introduce alongside their mental health policies, said Dr Natalie Kenny, CEO of BioGrad.

“We make sure our minimum wage is 20 per cent of the average house price, to ensure that our staff members can afford to pay for their own homes, in the process allowing them to feel safe with their loved ones,” she said.

As well as this, her firm also provides additional holidays and is opening a free on-site creche later this year, to “help the rising cost of living for our staff members,” Kenny said.