Work is cause of mental health issues for two in five employees, says BITC

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BITC says it’s Time to Take Ownership after its report of the same name reveals a 'significant' rise in work-related mental ill health.

The findings, published on Monday, shows the pendulum has hardly moved on mental health since last year’s report ‘Seizing the Momentum’.

It reveals that two in every five (39 per cent) employees experienced poor mental health due to work, or where work was a contributing factor, with a quarter citing anxiety and 14 per cent depression in 2019. This is up from 36 per cent in both its 2017 and 2018 surveys.

The proportion of employees who believe their organization does well in supporting those with poor mental health is 41 per cent, down from 45 per cent in 2018.

A third (33 per cent) felt their senior managers were not supportive when they came to them with a mental health issue, compared with 30 per cent in 2018. Only 59 per cent (down from 66 per cent in 2018 and 71 per cent in 2017) thought their HR department was supportive.

A third of employees felt their senior managers were not supportive when they came to them with a mental health issue

It also remains that around one in ten (9 per cent) employees reported that they were subject to disciplinary action, demotion or dismissal following the disclosure of mental health issues. This is on a par with last year, when 11 per cent of respondents gave the same answer.

Louise Aston, wellbeing campaign director at Business in the Community, said: “The number of employees who have experienced poor mental health due to work, or where work was a contributing factor, in the past year has increased significantly. People who come to work don’t expect to be physically injured and also should not expect to be psychologically harmed.”

She added: “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.”

Firms should publicly report on its "wellbeing performance" in external communications such as annual reports, says BITC

The report makes three recommendations, as well as a page with more detailed calls to action for senior leaders.

The three calls to action for employers are:

  1. Create good work that enhances mental health. Good work is created by elements including security, fair pay and professional development
  2. Acknowledge and support employees experiencing poor mental health, whatever the cause
  3. Publicly report your wellbeing performance in external communications such as annual reports

Dr Wolfgang Seidl, at Mercer Marsh Benefits, which partnered with BITC for the survey, said: “Yet again, we have evidence similar to last year that poor mental health has reached epidemic proportions. And even with a significant increase in awareness and more people coming out to talk about their experiences, we are not even close to tackling the problem.”

There were positive comments to take home from the findings, however, from experts including Peter Cheese, CEO of CIPD, who said: “The findings in this report reveal how fundamentally the quality of people’s work and working conditions affect their psychological health. Yet 41 per cent of employees experiencing poor mental health reported there had been no resulting changes taken at work.

“Where action had been taken, all of the positive actions were found to be helpful, with flexi-time, working from home and workload support particularly appreciated. These results show how vital it is for line managers to be able to facilitate meaningful conversations with individuals to ensure that people’s jobs or workloads are not exacerbating or causing mental ill health but promoting good work in the interest of improved wellbeing.”

Time to take Ownership was published on 23 September. It is based on the key findings from a YouGov panel survey of 4,236 full and part-time employees in the UK.

Not Just Free Fruit: a British Safety Council review of workplace wellbeing here



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