A major study into workplace wellbeing* by the mental health charity Mind has revealed today that poor mental health at work is widespread, with half (48 per cent) of all people surveyed saying they have experienced a mental health problem in their current job.
The survey of more than 44,000 employees also revealed that only half of those who had experienced poor mental health had talked to their employer about it, suggesting as many as one in four UK workers is struggling in silence with problems such as anxiety, low mood and stress.
Last year’s Thriving at Work report, following an independent review commissioned by the Prime Minister, revealed that as many as 300,000 people lose their job each year due to a mental health problem, and that poor mental health at work costs the UK economy between £72bn and £99bn. Separate research by Mind also revealed that one in three employers do not know where to look for information and guidance, and Heads Together research shows that just 2 per cent of people were prepared to talk to HR about mental health.
In-depth analysis of the survey has revealed that properly supporting managers can make a huge difference. Managers who felt their employer supported their mental health, or actively built their skills in supporting team members with mental health problems, were far more likely to feel confident in promoting staff wellbeing. Manager confidence, in turn, is closely linked with whether employees feel able to disclose. Those staff who felt their manager supported their mental health or could spot the signs that someone might be struggling were far more likely to say they would be able to talk about their mental health at work.
The latest findings come as a new online Mental Health at Work ‘gateway’ is launched, later today, by HRH the Duke of Cambridge. Mind, with support from The Royal Foundation, Heads Together and 11 other organisations has created the UK-wide portal as a free resource for both employers and employees. The gateway brings together information, advice, resources and training that workplaces can use to improve wellbeing and give employees the mental health support they need.
For the first time, the Mental Health at Work gateway brings together a wealth of content enabling employers and employees to easily search a huge range of resources according to their size and type of business, creating a bespoke package of support to improve wellbeing at work.
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said: “We are really proud to be involved in this piece of work, which offers a one-stop shop for anyone looking to improve mental wellbeing in their workplace and support staff with mental health problems. We know that employers want to do more and are starting to see mental health as a priority, but often don’t know where to start. The new online Mental Health at Work gateway will change that.
“Over the last few years employers have begun to take staff wellbeing more seriously and we know that many are doing great work around mental health in the workplace. Now is the time for a step change in how we think about mental health at work. All employers need to make it a focus and support their staff.
“It’s clear from our research that when employers support their managers properly, it can make a big difference to the whole organisation. The gateway gives managers the tools they need.
“Even small changes to policy, approach and workplace culture can make a really big difference to the mental health of those around us. No matter the size of your workplace, and no matter where you work, Mental Health at Work can help you find what you need to start or continue your journey to better workplace wellbeing for everyone.”
António Horta-Osório, Group Chief Executive of Lloyds Banking Group, who will attend and speak at today’s event, said: “The Mental Health at Work gateway is a hugely impressive undertaking, which we will be making substantial use of at Lloyds.
“Our experience shows us that, with the right culture of support, employees can experience poor mental health at times, or live with an ongoing mental health condition, and still succeed and thrive at work. We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health. As employers, we have a real opportunity to change the way we approach mental health, giving our people the support they need to thrive.”
WHSmith has made huge strides in the support and understanding it offers its workforce from a mental health perspective. This began after Alison Garbutt, the retailer’s Head of Strategic Projects, sought support for her colleagues following the suicide of a co-worker. She realised that she, and others around her, did not know how to approach potentially difficult conversations about mental health. Alison went to Human Resources and the company’s Group Risk Director, and together they started making a plan that focused on both raising awareness of and training key staff in mental health.
WHSmith workers soon found Time to Change materials around the workplace, and regular events started taking place on World Mental Health Day and Time to Talk Day. Training then began to take place for in-house Mental Health First Aid trainers, and knowledge was rolled out across the company. Much more activity is also planned for the future: additional training is set to take place; along with awareness-raising activities; and the company has also set up a blog on their intranet, allowing employees from across WHSmith to write about their mental health.
Alison Garbutt, Head of Strategic Projects at WHSmith, said: “Losing a colleague to suicide understandably had an immense impact on a number of staff within our organisation. Nobody can ever be fully prepared to lose a friend and co-worker in this way, but this awful incident made us realise that there was a lot more we could do as an organisation to promote good staff wellbeing and support staff struggling with poor mental health for any reason – whether work-related or otherwise. For an employer of our size, with a large number of staff all over the UK, we decided the best approach for us was to work with colleagues in HR and other staff to provide mental health awareness training for managers and store managers.
“Employers shouldn’t wait for staff to begin struggling with their mental health before they take action – acting quickly can prevent employees’ mental health worsening. But, too often, not knowing where to start can prevent employers prioritising workplace wellbeing. That’s why the Mental Health at Work gateway is going to be such a valuable resource for employers of all sizes and sectors.”
Mental Health at Work can be found at mentalhealthatwork.org.uk/ The 11 partners are Heads Together, CIPD, the Federation of Small Businesses, the City Mental Health Alliance, Mental Health First Aid, the Work and Health Unit, Public Health England, NCVO, The Work Foundation, Time to Change and the Institute of Directors.
*Research reference: Mind (2017/2018) 43,892 staff from across the 74 organisations taking part in Mind’s Workplace Wellbeing Index shared their views and experiences through staff surveys
45 per cent of line managers who felt their employer had helped them to build their skills said they had a good understanding of how to promote the wellbeing of their staff, compared with 25 per cent of those who did not – almost twice as likely.
61 per cent of line managers who felt their employer supported their mental health said they had a good understanding of how to promote the wellbeing of their staff, compared with 12 per cent of those who did not – five times more likely.
78 per cent of staff who felt their line manager supported their mental health said they would feel comfortable to disclose a mental health problem, compared with just seven per cent of those who didn’t – 11 times more likely.
60 per cent of staff who feel confident their manager could spot the signs and symptoms of a mental health problem felt comfortable disclosing, compared with just 17 per cent of those who didn’t – more than three times as likely.