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Mental health in the workplace

Philip Shepherd

17th July 2019

Poor mental health is much more common than many people realise.

  • Poor mental health affects half of all employees
  • Around 300,000 people lose their job each year due to a mental health problem


While more and more is being done to combat the stigma surrounding the topic, many people still feel unable to discuss their mental health with others, especially in a professional setting.


Work is a big part of most people’s lives, and it can often contribute to mental health problems. Employers and employees alike need to understand the importance of discussing mental health and having support measures in place.


The biggest factors that contribute to poor mental health for workers are:


  • Poor relationships with managers
  • Workload
  • Poor relationships with colleagues


As an employer, you should try to put in place procedures that monitor and improve these key areas of concern to minimise their risk.


Mental health absences


Absences due to poor mental health are extremely common in the UK.


  • 40% of long-term absence among non-manual workers is caused by stress or mental illness
  • 70 million work days are lost each year due to mental health problems
  • Mental health problems cost employers £2.4 billion per year in lost work days


It is worth bearing in mind that the stigma around mental health problems can also lead to ‘presenteeism’, where employees turn up to work even though they are not fit to do so. Forcing themselves to carry on as normal can exacerbate symptoms and lead to increased time off in the long run.


It is therefore important to ensure that you have the right support in place that will allow workers to understand that it is okay to take a break if they are feeling overwhelmed.


Mental health disclosure


Workers should feel that they are able disclose any mental health concerns to their employer and that they will be supported if they do so. Currently, there is much work to be done to achieve this.


  • Only 50% of those who have experienced problems with stress, anxiety or low mood have talked to their employer about it
  • 30% of employees feel unable to talk openly with their line manager about stress


Of workers who had a mental health problem:


  • 45% chose not to disclose it to an employer
  • 44% feared being discriminated against or harassed by colleagues
  • 40% felt ashamed to disclose their mental health
  • 45% felt that their mental health was none of the employer’s business

When people are struggling, it can be difficult to ask for help, especially if they have to broach the subject.


Employers can make mental health disclosure less daunting by improving relationships with their workers and addressing the topic with everyone. This means that workers don’t need to bring it up themselves, and they are also not singled out as the only one discussing mental health support.


Resources for mental health support in the workplace


Currently, not enough is being done to support mental health in the workplace.


  • Less than one in five companies offers mental health training for managers
  • 56% of employers said that they would like to do more to improve staff wellbeing but don’t feel that they have the right training or guidance

There are many online resources that can help employers to implement better mental health support strategies in their companies.


The Mental Health Foundation has a guide on How to support mental health at work,  as well as many other publications.


Mental health charity Mind has lots of resources about supporting mental health at work, as well as lots of other information.


MHAW provides advice to improve mental health within workplaces through education, skills development and cultural change.


Mental Health at Work is a hub of resources and information for employers of all sizes.


No matter how big or small your company, there is much to be gained by engaging with mental health in the workplace. Making changes to your processes and procedures can drastically improve the overall mental health of your staff, increasing productivity, staff retention and employee satisfaction.

Philip Shepherd

Philip Shepherd

Founder & CEO

Philip specialises in: Senior, Director and C-Level roles in Digital Marketing

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