Employees in east of England struggle with poor mental health

EMPLOYEES in the East of England are struggling with poor mental wellbeing, with half taking time off due to poor mental health, according to new research from not-for-profit healthcare provider, Benenden Health.

As many as 51% of employees in the region took time off work due to poor mental health in 2019, compared to 35% across the UK, with workers absent for between two and five days on average, costing UK businesses an estimated 4o million individual days of work across all regions.

Benenden Health, which has launched a new whitepaper looking at the impact of poor mental health on the UK workforce, is encouraging employers in the East of England to talk with their teams and encourage them to speak about pressures they may be facing now, especially considering the impacts faced by many during lockdown.

The research, which asked employees to consider the impact of their mental health throughout their working life, rather than solely during the COVID-19 pandemic, also revealed that half (52%) of workers in the East of England who took time off due to poor mental wellbeing said they were honest about the reason for their absence, with a third (35%) of employees saying they instead cited a physical issue and 12% reported taking annual leave to avoid any questions or embarrassment.

The views of employers in the East of England were also sought, and they agreed there is a stigma around discussing mental wellbeing at work, with more than six in ten (65%) acknowledging this, with 18% admitting they don’t know how to identify if an employee is struggling with their mental wellbeing and just eight in ten (79%) saying they would feel comfortable talking to employees about the problem.

The main reasons for employees’ reticence to discuss their mental wellbeing in the workplace in the East of England included being concerned that people won’t believe they can do their job effectively (32%), worrying that colleagues would talk about them (36%) and that it would impact on their career progression (36%).

Bob Andrews, CEO at Benenden Health, said: “It comes as no great surprise to see that poor mental wellbeing is having such a significant impact on employees and businesses across the UK, even before the pandemic hit.

“There continues to be a stigma around discussing our mental wellbeing and this is often more prevalent in the workplace than anywhere else. Unfortunately, businesses are too often unable to identify wellbeing issues, employees still feel like they can’t discuss them and there remains a lack of tangible support, all of which contribute to lost time and productivity for businesses as well as unaddressed poor employee wellbeing.

“The only way to tackle this is for businesses to prove to their employees that they genuinely care about their wellbeing, foster a culture of openness and provide the necessary internal and external support. By doing this, employers will be rewarded with fewer lost hours, a happier and more productive workforce and a workplace that is attractive to both current and prospective employees.”

Benenden Health enables businesses to offer affordable, high quality, private healthcare to every employee. This includes round the clock care such as 24/7 GP and Mental Health helplines, plus speedy access to services such as physiotherapy and medical treatment so employees can have peace of mind that they can ask for help whenever they need it. As a not-for-profit organisation, Benenden Health offers support to its 800,000+ members at the same affordable cost of just £11.50 per employee, per month.

For more information about Benenden Health and to download its new report ‘The elephant that never left the office: Why stigma is still preventing employees from telling their boss the truth about their mental wellbeing in the workplace’, click here.

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