However fewer than 10% of UK employees will discuss mental health with their managers, research shows
Three quarters (74%) of UK employees who have experienced a mental health condition have reported that stigma towards mental health in the workplace has reduced over the past year, yet struggling employees are still reluctant to talk to their line managers, new research from Aviva has revealed.
Released for Time to Talk Day (6 February), Aviva's Health of the Workplace report findings showed that just 9% of employees who have had a mental health condition sought help from their line manager, while 12% said they would discuss their mental health with a work colleague - only 4% would talk to HR.
Employees said they were more likely to talk to family (41%) and friends (38%) if they faced difficulties. Health professionals (36%), online research (19%) and counsellors (17%) were also more common sources of mental health support for employees.
However, more than three-quarters (77%) of employers thought they were ‘good' at identifying team members under pressure, while only 37% of employees agreed with this statement.
The good news is that employees are increasingly becoming mindful of their colleagues' mental health, with more than half (55%) of employees encountering a colleague with a mental health condition and 76% of them doing their best to help other employees. Just 5% said they were sceptical whether their colleague actually had ‘an issue'.
Adding to this, 88% of employers and 87% of employees agreed it is ok to not feel ok at work. Dr Subashini M, associate medical director, UK health & protection, at Aviva described this finding as "a positive step" however said it is concerning there is a "disconnect" between employee and employer perceptions of workplace mental health support.
"Our experience is that there is a difference between saying and doing things: you can follow guidelines and protocols, but this needs to be done with connection and authenticity with staff," said Dr Subashini. "A conversation about mental health does not always mean supporting a colleague through depression and anxiety. Everyone can experience triggers and symptoms that impact their mental health. The disconnect is apparent when tasks asked of employees do not change nor does the workplace culture, despite the acknowledgement of wanting to support mental health in the workplace."
Dr Subashini added that signposting employees to the "most appropriate" support is crucial.
Vanessa Sallows, benefits & governance director, group protection, Insurance, at Legal & General agreed that employers are increasingly recognizing the importance of mental wellbeing in the workplace and that "great progress" is being made when it comes to stigma. "However, mental health continues to be one of the biggest causes of long- and short-term employee absence, so awareness days, such as Time to Talk Day, are vital in encouraging more people to be open about their mental wellbeing," she said.
"Mental health doesn't discriminate, so for real change to occur, it's crucial for workplaces to create a culture where employees of all levels can openly discuss their wellbeing. For business leaders, using their seniority to positively push boundaries and encourage action can make all the difference - in fact, our recent ‘Not a Red Card' research found 69% of employees would be more attracted to working in an organisation where senior level executives have spoken openly about mental health," said Sallows.
"Businesses are in a unique position to help support their employees' mental wellbeing, so as we look to the future, we must keep building upon the momentum of recent years and create mentally healthy workplaces where people can flourish."
Dr Syed Zakir Abbas, chief medical officer at employee benefits provider Unum UK added: "Decreasing stigma around mental health problems in the work place and better understanding of the benefits of early support is key.
"There are a number of steps both employees and their employers should consider to better support workplace mental wellbeing. These include encouraging open conversations about mental health between employees and their employer, discussing the support available, and ensuring everyone has a healthy work-life balance and opportunities for development."
Workplace support options include the provision of an employee assistance programme (EAP), line manager training, resilience training, volunteering to improve wellbeing, shared parental leave and other solutions such as private medical insurance (PMI) or group protection.
‘Lifestyle can affect cancer’
World Cancer Awareness Day
On National Sickie Day
Ruth Gilbert explores
$2m per treatment