Employees feel uncomfortable discussing mental health at work.
Nearly half of UK employees would fear being honest about their mental health in the workplace because they worry it could harm their career, a survey has found.
The survey found 47% said they would feel uncomfortable talking about mental health issues with their employer for this reason. At the same time, the research found there had been a 16% increase in the number of employees taking days off work because of mental health issues.
More than a third (35%) of those who responded said they had taken time off because of their mental health, compared to just 31%of those surveyed in 2020.
This is despite employers offering mental health first aid training which increased by 26% over the same period, which suggests that investment and training towards supporting employees’ mental health was not having the desired impact.
It is positive to see employers providing training, the stigma around mental health was still very much present in the work environment.
Individuals that recognise they need time off to look after their wellbeing should not feel threatened to admit the truth to their employer. The survey results should urge employers to re-evaluate their approaches to mental health.
It is important to create safe spaces in the workplace for conversations around mental health as opposed to providing company-wide training. It can come down to the culture of an organisation, whether metal health is spoken about openly or is it a taboo subject.
Unfortunately, the impact of the pandemic increased many people’s levels of stress and anxiety, and employers needed to be mindful that some of their workforce would need more time to adjust than others.
Employers need to be compassionate, ensure leaders manage with empathy, understand their people’s challenges, and work to help them through these tough times. Employers could help their employees by providing access to professional help through an employee assistance programme and offering paid days off for mental health.
It’s important to still treat this as a time of transition and give employees the time and space needed to adjust to this new world. Most of all, it’s vital that employers do all they can to reassure their people that they are supported and cared about, and that they don’t feel a pressure to please.