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Huge gulf in business sentiment and action on mental health, poll finds

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Fewer than one in 10 employers have discussed mental health with their staff over the last year according to a major new poll, despite the fact that the vast majority of businesses say they should make provisions to promote emotional wellbeing.


Three quarters of business do not have a mental health policy in place, according to the Institute of Directors (IoD) survey, timed to coincide with Time to Talk day, which aims to break the taboo around mental health by encouraging people to talk about the topic.

The survey of 1,150 employees and 586 senior decision makers, carried out by YouGov, found that 74% of employees say they would prefer to discuss mental health concerns with someone outside of work.

“While we’ve witnessed public attitudes around mental health start to change, these findings show how much more needs to be done in the workplace,” said Sue Baker, director of Time to Change, the campign run by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness that promotes Time to Talk day. 

“However, it is encouraging to see that the majority of companies recognise they should do more and we have hundreds of examples of employers, from all sectors, who have already seen the benefits of implementing changes including mental health awareness for all staff, training for line managers, and improvements in the support offered to staff. There isn’t a lack of help and support available to employers, but we need to work together to bridge this gap.”

The findings reveal that the number of companies who put in place mental health programmes or have a company-wide policy on mental health is strikingly low, at just 23%. This is despite overwhelming support from both employers and staff for businesses to take a leading role in addressing mental health at work.

More than eight in 10 companies surveyed felt they should adapt their workplace and working practices to promote mental wellbeing, and 68% of employees agreed it was a business’s responsibility to make provisions for staff mental health issues and mental wellbeing.

Approximately one third of employees said stress and anxiety make it difficult to get their work done. The overwhelming majority – 93% – of businesses recognise that personal worries and stress can adversely affect staff performance.

Simon Walker, director general of the IoD, said business have an important role to play in bringing about an end to mental health stigma.

“There may come a time when people are as comfortable talking about their mental health as they are talking about the going to the dentist, but we’re not there yet,” he said.

“Huge progress has been made, but society still has a long way to go in increasing awareness and understanding of mental health issues. Businesses have an enormous role to play in creating an environment where such issues can be discussed openly, effectively and safely.

“After all, we spend a huge amount of lives at work and among colleagues, so we have to take steps to ensure that the work environment, particularly in smaller businesses, is one where mental health issues are well understood.”

 

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