How to tackle and support mental health issues in the workplace

Sixty-two per cent of UK employees have taken a day off work in the last year as a result of stress, depression or anxiety, Wildgoose survey finds.

New survey results suggest mental health issues are having a significant impact on productivity in the workplace. With World Mental Health Day taking place today – 10th October – and awareness of the severity of mental health issues growing, events company Wildgoose undertook a survey to examine the impact of mental health issues on the workforce and how employers handle them when they arise. The company surveyed employees at 250 businesses across the UK with interesting results.

The survey results reveals there is still a substantial stigma surrounding mental health at work. Of those surveyed who have taken a day off work, just under half admitted to calling in sick with a different complaint to the one they were actually suffering with.

When compared with the responses of those who haven’t taken a day off work, the results are strikingly different. Worryingly, 43 per cent indicated that they would say nothing and carry on as normal if faced with mental health issues, whilst four per cent state they would call in with a different issue. These results highlight a disparity between how individuals perceive they would deal with mental health issues at work, and how they would handle the situation in reality.

NHS mental health nurse, psychotherapist and podcaster Aimee Leigh has over 17 years’ experience in the field. She also practices mindfulness techniques designed to manage stress and anxiety. She suggests, ‘To combat stress, one must learn to be present and grounded in their bodies, through the use of the senses. Developing a practice of mindfulness helps the mind become resilient. Managing stress by training the mind to focus on one point for sustained periods of time stops the mind fluctuating, racing and catastrophising. When a person isn’t caught up in their thoughts, they’re more able to be focused and productive. They’re also less emotionally reactive and more proactive, productive and efficient.

‘Higher priorities need to be placed on supporting staff emotionally in the workplace, with more education for staff around taking responsibility for their health and well-being.’

The survey also highlights differences in absence across various groups and demographics. On average, women are less likely to take a day off work for mental health related issues, with more than 60 per cent taking a day off in the last year compared to just under two thirds of men.

Job ranking also appears to be a factor when it comes to taking time off work, with interns and business owners the least likely (at just under 45 per cent) to take time off. Contrastingly, those at executive level were the most likely to take time off at just under 70 per cent.

The findings of the survey highlight the need for employers to take an empathetic approach to mental health in the workplace, emphasising the need for implementation of appropriate support structures. Team building is key to bolstering employee happiness in the workplace, as stated by 30 per cent of those surveyed.

In addition:

Ninety-one per cent of National Rail users have taken a day off work with a mental health-related issue in the last year. This compares with 63 per cent of Underground users and 50 per cent of DLR commuters
Those who walked to work still ranked above average for having taken a day off in the last year, with 67 per cent having suffered from a mental health-related issue
London residents came in below average at 56 per cent, but for those living in the South West and East of England (the commuter belt), absenteeism due to mental health rose to 72 per cent

Upon the publication of the survey results, Mandy Chase, HR manager at Wildgoose says, ‘The results of the Mental Health at Work survey demonstrate just how damaging a lack of proper mental health support in the workplace can be for both employees and employers. Findings suggest that more needs to be done throughout all levels of an organisation to encourage an open culture and foster discussions around mental health. The steps towards creating a supportive, open culture should include regular team building activities that provide tangible learning outcomes as these have been shown to enhance employee engagement and improve colleague relations.’

Further reading on mental health support

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