Almost six million UK workers have gone to work despite feeling mentally unwell, as the stigma surrounding mental health problems continues to affect individuals, research by Canada Life has revealed.
The survey by the UK’s largest provider of Group Insurance, which polled 1,004 full- and part-time employees, found that almost a fifth (18%) – equivalent to 5.8 million UK employees – had gone into work even though they felt mentally unwell at the time.
A fifth (19%) said they would be more likely to go into work if they were feeling mentally unwell than they would if they were feeling physically unwell.
Worryingly, 20% said they would be embarrassed to say they took a day off work because of a mental health problem, while more than one in 10 (13%) said they would be worried about the impact that taking a day off sick due to a mental health issue would have on their job prospects.
A further 12% said they feared their boss and/or colleagues would no longer take them seriously, while the same proportion said their boss and/or colleagues’ understanding of mental health issues was poorer than their understanding of physical ones.
The research provides a great opportunity for employers to better understand how they can help workers affected by mental health issues.
For example, when asked how their employer could make people feel more comfortable about taking time off because of a mental health issue, 37% of workers said the opportunity to work flexibly would help.
Just over a third (34%) said that promoting a more positive attitude to health and wellbeing would be beneficial, while over a quarter (26%) said less pressure to be “always on” and working would help.
The old mental health stigma still exists
Workplace support, such as assistance programmes and back to work rehabilitation for longer term conditions were cited by 22% and 18% of employees respectively as beneficial measures that would help them feel more comfortable taking time off when they need it to recuperate.
Paul Avis, marketing director at Canada Life Group Insurance, said the old stigma surrounding mental health still persists in modern workplaces.
“Employers must do more to show they are serious about supporting employees with mental health and stress-related issues.
“It is important to communicate not only that it’s okay for them to take time off to get better, but also that there won’t be any negative impact on their career for doing so,” he said.
He added that employee assistance programmes are an invaluable addition for both employers and employees, especially when the latter are being affected mentally by workplace issues such as heavy workloads.
It is very important for employers to have strategies in place to help their employees with mental well-being. At Premier Choice healthcare, we talk to clients about services available under many existing staff benefits such as PMI and Group Protection policies. Sometimes, employers do not realise they already have procedures in place to help.
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