Mental health support at work: are you getting any?

March 11th 2017 / Anna Hunter

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Only 27% of women feel that their employer provides enough mental health support. Here’s why and how we need to work on workplace wellbeing…

Ever taken a day off due to anxiety or another mental health issue? Did you avoid discussing it with your boss? If your answer to both is yes, you’re certainly not alone, as research undertaken by Totaljobs, YouGov and mental health charity Mind reveals that 11% of female workers in the past year have been unable to work due a mental health issue, yet 44% of us feel that our employer would think negatively of us if we were to open up a conversation about a mental health problem. The survey of 580 women demonstrates the stigma that still surrounds mental health, and the impact that it can have on our professional lives and careers.

The reasoning for why we suffer in silence is complex, and it’s notable that women are more uncomfortable discussing mental health issues at work than men (44% of women to 27% of men). 38% of women are embarrassed about talking about mental health, 25% feel that it would affect their chance of progression in the office, while 35% don’t feel that they’d get sufficient or meaningful support from their employer.

Workplace wellbeing should be a priority for all organisations, no matter their size or sector

These discouraging results coincide with a report published this week by The Office of National Statistics that brought to light that the number of days of sick leave taken by British workers has fallen to the lowest rate since records began in 1993. Given that the fall off began around the time of the recession in 2007, it’s thought that the fear of losing our jobs is a factor in us trooping on regardless, but improvements in workplace wellbeing programmes could also be a factor, although clearly there remains work to be done in that department, as Emma Malmo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at Mind underlines:

“Workplace wellbeing should be a priority for all organisations, no matter their size, sector or what time of year it is. There is nothing to suggest that one month, in particular, carries an increased risk of people experiencing poor mental health. There are certain things that may make any employee struggle at this time of year, such as short daylight hours and cold weather leading to reduced levels of outdoor exercise.”

“It’s important to raise awareness and tackle the stigma associated with mental health at work throughout the year. Employers and managers need to take care of staff, encourage them to seek help where necessary and spark conversations to help to create an open environment where stress and mental health are talked about openly. All employees, including line managers and HR professionals, can find information and practical steps to promote wellbeing, tackle stress and poor mental health at work by visiting www.mind.org.uk/work.”

Mind’s online resources are invaluable, but how can businesses effectively support staff? 25% of women feel that flexible working hours are key when it comes to coping with a mental health problem, while 22% would like to see either free or paid-for counselling offered in a professional environment. 15% would value their boss or team encouraging regular breaks, and the same number think that staff surveys to specifically ensure that employees are not struggling at work would be a useful tool for workers and businesses alike. Meanwhile, the power of exercise in terms of easing mental health symptoms is highlighted by the fact that 13% of women report that discounted or free gym memberships would improve mental health in the workplace.

Feeling happy, secure and supported at work is a win-win in terms of productivity and passion for a job, and while more and more of us are battling on through, the UK still loses 15.8 million days to mental health conditions such as depression, schizophrenia, anxiety and stress according to the ONS. Like many medical issues, mental health problems can affect anyone at anytime, and whether someone is putting on a brave face at their desk or trying to hide their suffering at home, we all owe it to each other to establish a dialogue and a strategy for greater wellbeing at work. Particularly given the time we spend there, we’re all worth it.

Find more resources by exploring the TotalJobs mental health at work hub here

Does your workplace have a wellbeing initiative? Do you feel supported at work? Comment below and let us know your thoughts

Follow Anna on Twitter @AnnaMaryHunter and Instagram @annyhunter


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