A new study by Mind has revealed that poor mental health at work may be even more widespread than currently thought, with almost half (48 per cent) of people having experienced poor mental health in their current job.
The survey of 44,000 people, published today, found only half of employees who experienced poor mental health had talked to their employer about it.
However, Mind said that properly supporting managers can positively impact employee mental health.
Three in five (61 per cent) line managers who felt their employer supported their mental health said they had a good understanding of how to promote their team’s wellbeing.
Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, said all employers needed to make mental health at work a focus.
“It’s clear from our research that when employers support their managers properly, it can make a big difference to the whole organisation,” Farmer said. “Even small changes to policy, approach and workplace culture can make a really big difference to the whole organisation.”
Rachel Suff, CIPD senior policy adviser, added that line managers were usually the “first port of call for staff feeling distressed”.
“It’s a huge responsibility for someone who has all these daily targets to also be alert to staff wellbeing,” Suff told People Management. “Managers need to be given proper training, a supportive framework and guidance from HR and occupational health to help their staff who might be dealing with poor mental health.”
Mind’s study also found a majority (78 per cent) of staff felt comfortable discussing mental health when they felt their line manager supported their mental health. Sixty per cent of employees said they felt comfortable disclosing mental health problems when they were confident their manager could spot the signs and symptoms of mental ill health.
Katie Legg, Mental Health UK’s associate director, said it was “everyone’s job”, from senior leaders to managers, to create an open culture around mental health and “drive change through offering training, and by being flexible when it comes to reasonable adjustments”.
The Mind survey also revealed 45 per cent of line managers felt confident in promoting staff wellbeing and said their employer helped develop their skills in supporting team members with mental health problems.
But Charlotte Cross, director at the Better Health at Work Alliance, told People Management employers must trust in the business case for investing time or funds in workplace mental health training and support.
“Employers need to be aware that there is much more help out there than they realise, on a local and large level, and it sometimes just requires some creative Googling,” Cross said. “Some solutions, such as debt support to resolve financial anxiety, can be free, so there is no reason for these not to be in place.”
Mind also launched its online Mental Health at Work gateway today, which brings together a wealth of resources for employers and employees to improve wellbeing at work. The UK-wide portal was created with support from the Royal Foundation’s Heads Together initiative, the CIPD, the Federation of Small Businesses and nine other organisations.
Earlier this year, a London School of Economics study revealed that employees concealing mental health conditions took more days off work than colleagues who were open about their mental health problems.
Dr Sara Evans Lacko, associate professorial research fellow at LSE and co-author of the paper, said employers need to be more alive to the “invisible illness”, warning that if managers feel the issue is “too taboo to discuss openly”, it could have a detrimental effect on employees and business productivity.