More than half (53%) of UK employees state they have struggled with their mental wellbeing*, according to Opinium’s Workplace Mental Wellbeing report which uncovers workers’ views as well as the key issues companies need to address to support their staff.
While four in five (80%) of workers who have struggled with their mental wellbeing have said it impacts their work, as many as two thirds (67%) have never told an employer. Almost a quarter (23%) felt too embarrassed to tell their company that they were struggling, a quarter (24%) kept quiet because they didn’t think their employer could help, and 19% thought it could jeopardise their career.
Despite the high prevalence of mental wellbeing struggles, only 36% of those who have experienced struggled with their mental health in the last 12 months took any time off. The most common reasons for not taking time off for mental wellbeing were:
- Not thinking it is a valid reason (28%)
- Wanting to keep it to themselves (30%)
- Thinking their employer wouldn’t understand (25%)
Among those who decided to take off time work due to struggling with their mental wellbeing, over half (54%) still felt pressure to come back to work too early.
Support in the workplace
Over a third of employees (35%) are not offered a single thing by their workplace to support their mental wellbeing. While many managers have good intentions, half (49%) do not know how to support mental wellbeing in the workplace. And worryingly, only two thirds (66%) of managers would know what to do if an employee directly told them that they were struggling with their mental wellbeing.
Promisingly however, 77% of managers recognise that businesses need more support and education around mental wellbeing in the workplace. Offering mental health days (days that employees can take off for their mental health with no questions asked) is one of the most popular initiatives that people would like to see introduced, with 21% wanting this. Currently just 5% of employers offer this. Employees would also like flexible working (17%), monitoring of mental wellbeing via surveys (16%) and counselling/employee assistance services (16%).
Benefits of workplace mental wellbeing support
The most commonly offered programmes and initiatives to improve employee mental wellbeing include:
- space to take breaks (29%)
- flexible/remote working (24%)
- access to counsellors/ employee assistance programmes (18%)
Analysing the different mental wellbeing initiatives offered by certain companies, the research uncovered those that help employees enjoy significantly above average mental wellbeing, as measured by academically rigorous Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale**.
Sophie Holland, senior research executive at Opinium comments:
“Clearly there are still significant barriers preventing employees from talking about their mental wellbeing to their employers, and this needs to change. Culture is key here – employers need to work to create safe spaces where their employees feel comfortable talking about mental health and wellbeing, both good and bad experiences; allowing employees to bring their full selves to work. However, it is also important that workplaces have the support structures and initiatives in place. Every workplace is different, and different teams may need different initiatives to support them. Therefore, it is vital that employers listen to their employees and understand what works best for them.
Sarah Stewart-Brown from the University of Warwick, which partnered with Opinium on the research, comments:
“We developed this scale because it captures so much more about mental health than scales which measure mental illness. Mental wellbeing is about thriving not just surviving. Employees with good mental wellbeing feel good and function well. Quantifying mental wellbeing helps organisations to focus on what they are doing right. Tracking scores over time highlights effective strategies and promotes wider understanding of mental wellbeing”.