With more than six in 10 (62%) of managers saying that they had to put their company’s interests above staff wellbeing on a regular basis, it is perhaps not too surprising that 39% of UK workers experienced symptoms of poor mental health related to work in the past year.

Both findings come from a new report released by Business in the Community (BITC), in partnership with Mercer Marsh Benefits and BITC’s Wellbeing Leadership Team.

Mental Health at Work 2019 — Time to Take Ownership (which can be found at https://wellbeing.bitc.org.uk/MHAW2019) shows that most employers do not acknowledge or deal with the adverse impact work has on employees’ mental health.

The research found that half (51%) of those at a chief executive or board level believed that their organisation effectively supports its staff, compared with 38% of those without line management responsibilities.

It also highlights that only 7% of all employees have received training to recognise workplace stress factors and that 9% of those questioned were subject to disciplinary action, demotion or dismissal following the disclosure of mental health issues.

Louise Aston, wellbeing campaign director at BITC, said: “While mental health awareness has risen significantly in recent years, our research shows that too many employers are tinkering at the edges of change rather than making the fundamental differences that are really needed to improve their employees’ mental health.”

Removing the barriers to improving wellbeing

BITC has made three calls to action for businesses to help achieve better mental health for the UK workforce:

  • create good work that enhances mental health, understanding that good work is created by elements including security, fair pay and professional development

  • acknowledge and support employees experiencing poor mental health, whatever the cause

  • publicly report their wellbeing performance.

Comment from David Price, CEO and workplace wellbeing expert at Health Assured

From an employer’s perspective, it pays to invest time and resources into the issue of mental health. Even if there have been no reported instances of mental health conditions, taking preventative measures will help minimise the likelihood of any concerns cropping up.

Workplace pressure is a crucial contributor towards work-related stress and employers should ensure duties are issued evenly and fairly.

Even the best employees will struggle with excessive workloads, and line managers should be on the lookout for anyone staying late, or feeling the need to take work home with them regularly.

Employers who truly embrace mental health initiatives by introducing employee assistance programmes or installing mental health first aiders, will reap the rewards as this will lead to improved morale.

Having the right support network in place will reduce the number of absences that occur each year in relation to poor mental health, allowing organisations to run more efficiently.

Last reviewed 8 October 2019