United Kingdom

Mental health in the workplace: more needs to be done

June 2019

At a glance:

  • Mind has surveyed 60,000 workers across UK organisations
  • The report states 53% of employees have struggled with poor mental health whilst at their current job
  • Aon recommends that employers take a proactive approach to mental wellbeing in the workplace

Women chatting

The majority of managers (two in three) say they would be able to promote mental wellbeing within their teams despite less than half admitting they would be unable to spot mental health issues within themselves, a new survey from mental health charity Mind has revealed.

Polling 44,000 employees and 15,500 managers across UK organisations, 41 per cent of managers said they were satisfied with the training their employer provided in helping them to support team members struggling with mental health issues while 56 per cent of staff overall said they felt their employer supports their mental health. In addition, 51 per cent said improved workplace culture made it easier to talk about mental health issues.

Mind’s own figures show that 7 in 10 employees have struggled with poor mental health at some point in their lives while just over half (53 per cent) admitted they have struggled with these issues while at their current job.

Whilst Mind’s frequently-quoted statistic that one in four will suffer with a diagnosable mental health condition in any given year, the source of this now dates to 2007 and much has happened since it was first published. We all have mental health, and most of us struggle with our mental health at one time or another in our lives – the latest figures from Mind’s Workplace Wellbeing Index is perhaps more telling of the extent of the issue. Whatever the cause of an employee’s mental health problems, the line manager plays a crucial role. They are often the first person the employee will talk to about their mental health and how they support the employee from there can have a significant impact on the employee’s recovery. The vast majority of line managers have had no training on mental health (Thriving at Work) and therefore, bar personal experience, many lack the necessary knowledge, skills and confidence to appropriately support their teams.

Long-term impact

The latest figures from Mind back up countless studies and surveys carried out over the past few years, not least statistics from the Labour Force Survey 2017/18 which found that 595,000 employees suffer from long-term work-related stress, depression or anxiety issues which resulted in the loss of 15.4 million working days last year. NHS Employers and their Mental Health at Work 2018 report carried out by YouGov found that one in three UK workers have been ‘formally diagnosed’ with a mental health condition and 61 per cent have experienced work-related mental health issues such as stress or anxiety.

Contemporary issue

The Mind research comes as health tech start up Mynurva published figures which show that a significant number (one third) of UK staff have experienced a deterioration in their mental health since 2018. Nearly 70 per cent said they did not think the government was doing enough to address the issue and 67 per cent said they had no faith in their GP due to lack of time and training.

Whilst there is some speculation over the drivers behind increases in reported mental health issues, it is likely to be due to a combination of factors. There has been a shift in public awareness of mental health which is testimony to the great work that has been done by charities, government, employers, royalty, celebrities and brave individuals who have come forward to share their experiences. Awareness enables us to identify signs of distress in ourselves and others, and to seek professional help earlier on.

However, there are increases in risks to our mental health. Work-related stress is at an all-time high, we live in times of economic and political uncertainty, we are the most technologically but least socially connected society ever, and more of us fall in the ‘sandwich generation’ with caring responsibilities for young and old – to name a few.

Employers play an important part in protecting and enhancing the mental health of their employees. The impact of poor mental health on businesses is well documented, as such it needs to be treated as a strategic HR and Boardroom issue. As a minimum, all employers should implement a mental health strategy, raise awareness of the issue, create the right work environment to encourage employees to talk more openly about their mental health, ensure appropriate support is available and proactively signpost employees to these, assess and address the risks of work-related stress, promote positive work/life balance, provide mental health training to line managers and review indicators of mental health (such as absence data) to measure the impact of the strategy.

It often feels like a big task but making a start is the most important step, create a plan, and seek expert guidance where required.

Aon provides consultative support to help companies improve their employees’ wellbeing. From finding the right approach to finding the right message, we can help you support your workforce.

For more information or to discuss any of the issues outlined in this article, please get in touch by emailing us at [email protected] or call us on 0344 573 0033.


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