Working environment having a negative effect on employee mental health 

More than a third of UK employees say their working environment is having a negative effect on their mental state of mind, and one in two feel that their workplace ‘does not manage mental health issues well’.

The findings, from the Mental Resilience Survey conducted by health insurer Westfield Health, have been released to mark Mental Health Awareness Week (16-22 May).

While 60 per cent admit that mental health issues affect their everyday life, half of those who have suffered from a mental health issue did not take time off work.

Westfield Health executive director, Dave Capper says, ‘The findings show that when it comes to managing mental health in the workplace, employers face a much bigger problem than first appears.

‘Not only are workers reporting that their place of work is impacting negatively on their mental state of mind, but the majority (63 per cent) are also calling for employers and employees to share responsibility and to do more to manage mental resilience and mindfulness in the workplace.’

For 40 per cent of workers, a mental health issue had arisen due to the negative impact of a physical ailment.

This means that the mental health issue might be going undetected and unaddressed by employers; often the physical illness will be treated and openly talked about, but the mental element may be masked.

Capper adds that the findings suggest employers face a ‘mental health iceberg’, with only a small proportion of mental health problems being recognised and managed, and a much larger proportion of issues remaining hidden below the surface.

‘Although we’re seeing improvements in mental health provision in general, it seems workplaces are lagging behind, and this gap needs to be addressed.

‘It is time for employers to put equal focus on managing mental health and physical health in the workplace.’

Brian Dow, director of external affairs at Rethink Mental Illness says that work is such an important part of so many people’s sense of identity and self-worth, but there seems to be a ‘great chasm’ between staff and managers when it comes to dealing with mental illness in the workplace.

‘On the one hand we have bosses who don’t feel equipped to support their staff properly, and on the other we have employees who don’t feel they can approach their managers, and sometimes even feel they need to lie about why they are having time off, often citing a physical health problem instead.

‘It’s important for people to feel they can talk about mental health in the workplace. It could be something like setting time aside in one-to-ones to ask your employees how they are doing both in and outside of work, developing work-life balance initiatives, or equipping managers to recognise the signs of common mental illness conditions.’

The business cost of mental ill health among the UK workforce is thought to total £26 billion, Dow adds.

‘Although this issue has been swept under the carpet in the past, it is now a concern which employers are reaching out and asking for help about,’ he says.

Further reading on mental health

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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