Lack of mental health support can reduce business productivity by a quarter

16 Jul 2020 By Siobhan Palmer

Study finds a third of firms have seen absences owing to conditions such as anxiety and depression

Companies that don’t provide staff adequate mental health support risk seeing their productivity drop by a quarter, new research from Warwick Business School suggests

A survey of 1,900 businesses based in the Midlands, conducted by the school’s Enterprise Research Centre, found almost a third (31 per cent) of firms saw sickness absences owing to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression in the past year. 

Of these companies, those whose performance was negatively affected by this saw an average drop in productivity of a quarter (24.5 per cent).

According to the research, mental ill-health related absence impacted on workplaces by placing additional burdens on other staff, affecting morale and time spent on management issues, as well as creating extra costs from hiring temporary or permanent replacements – all leading to reduced efficiency across the business.

Despite the pressures staff mental health problems placed on companies, the survey also revealed just 44 per cent of firms offered proactive support to employees, while only 35 per cent had a health and wellbeing lead on the board.

Stephen Roper, director of the Enterprise Research Centre and professor of enterprise at Warwick Business School, said the study showed mental health issues already presented a challenge to workplaces before the onset of Covid-19. “Given the massive dislocation to people’s working lives since then, we can expect that situation to have worsened,” he said, “especially because some of the risk factors highlighted by our study participants, such as remote working, have suddenly become far more commonplace.”

He therefore emphasised the importance of organisations having robust mental health policies and plans in place. 

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