3GHR Mental Health Survey Analysis
- 19 June 2019
3GHR Mental Health Survey
The Results Are in
The case for tackling mental health in the workplace
Mental Health Awareness Week last month has highlighted a deluge of data reported on this topic. Highlights include:
- Absence due to mental health cost the UK economy £34.9 billion in 2017.
- Over 1.5 million people are taking time out from due to mental health issues every year.
- Millennials display the highest levels of anxiety, depression and thoughts of suicide of any generation. They are also simultaneously on the cusp of becoming the largest global workforce by 2020.
- 53% of employees feel uncomfortable talking about mental health issues like depression and anxiety at work.
- Stress, anxiety and depression were the three most concealed issues by UK employees who have called in sick this year, with two in five covering up a mental health issue.
Smart employers are already placing workplace wellness at the core of their business, recognising the importance of their staff. They are going beyond merely protecting the company to ensure individuals feel valued and supported.
Wellness and workplace health initiatives are varied and include everything from significant interventions and counselling services to mindfulness training, flexible working and even options like yoga, time off and massages at work.
Mental health problems can affect anyone at any time, and it has emerged from being a taboo subject into a critical underpinning to many organisations’ employee value propositions. From the challenges of working in the modern day environment to dealing with change and uncertainty (political or otherwise) to the increasing trend to blend “work” and “life”, it is not surprising organisations are waking up to the need to invest in their people and promote their wellbeing.
Having healthy and engaged employees increases attractiveness to talent, reduces employee turnover, lowers healthcare costs, increases engagement levels and increases productivity, creativity and performance. A wellness strategy is critical for making employees happier, which will ultimately improve your organisations bottom line.
Why should you care about this?
One of the first and most influential people to speak out about resilience and stress was Arianna Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post. She stated recently that, contrary to common belief, her media empire was not founded on sleepless nights and stress. In fact, it only started really taking off when she started taking care of herself. She needed a wake-up call to get to this point, which came when she literally worked herself to the point of exhaustion and collapsed before being found by her 2 year old daughter. A dramatic re-assessment of her life and priorities followed, after which she started working smarter, looking after herself and, in what she cites as the most important area, sleeping more so that her body was recharged both physically and mentally.
The impact was almost immediate; the business went from strength to strength and a few years down the line it’s now valued at over $1bn. It is often hard to put a true financial price on not looking after your employees, but certainly this put a figure on the benefits of looking after yourself as the head of a business.
It is critical that managers look after themselves first and then their direct reports. If managers are not eating well, sleeping well and leading by example then how can they expect their teams to follow suit? There is a reason that the airline safety briefing requires you to put on your own oxygen mask first before looking after others, even your children. Clearly, investing effort in your own wellbeing sets you up to succeed as a manager and a leader.
Historically, as a business we have provided high impact Management Development workshops which change behaviour as well as develop skills. Over time, however, we became aware that a theme was developing in our sessions – topic suggestions and real-life examples brought to the table by delegates – as well as interest in our programmes on vitality, productivity and resilience surging. Our clients and prospects started asking us what we could offer around these topics to help their managers survive and indeed thrive in this rapidly changing and uncertain world.
We started to look deeper into the needs of managers and their direct reports and uncovered an alarming fact. Whilst some organisations were asking us to support them and felt it was an area of the business that simply could not be ignored, there were many more organisations that seemed to be brushing this under the carpet and prioritising more traditional development topics.
Given the undeniable case, we thought it would be interesting to understand how businesses are stepping up to these challenges. We have conducted our own ‘Doing Well by Being Well’ survey, asking some key questions to HR professionals across the UK to uncover the condition of their health and wellbeing strategies. It attracted responses from organisations ranging in size from SMEs through to large multinationals, representing up to 305,000 employees in total.
So, what did our survey results tell us? The snapshot provided to us was both enlightening and frightening in equal measure.
Survey Results – Pressure
The first question asked how much pressure people felt from their business to ‘do more with less’. Deep down, we all know it’s not getting any easier. 69% of people who answered the survey said that pressure was either ‘Increasing’ or ‘Increasing Significantly’.
We have noticed this in particular recently with the success of our 2 hour ‘Expresso’ programmes. We’re working with companies who want to develop their managers but pressures within the business mean they cannot spare them for more than a couple of hours at a time, so bite-sized sessions work best for them. Several years ago, we were having the same conversations on the basis that managers could only be spared for one day at a time – so this would indicate that pressure on productivity is increasing.
Just to be clear, nobody performs well under pressure. A lot of us think we do, but we don’t, or at least we don’t perform as well as we could perform.
Whilst this trend could lead to us being more creative about how we achieve things, we may even start to challenge the status-quo and stop the pattern of continuing to do what we have always done; this way of working is not sustainable and needs support in terms of helping people to prioritise, deal with stress and learn to say “no”.
Survey Results – Work Life Blend
The next result initially surprised us in a good way. However, we have a theory on why this might be the case. 70% of respondents stated that at least half their employees are leaving the office on time, and that over 75% take their full annual leave entitlement. This is great, and on the surface it shows that employees are trying to strike the balance between work and life… or does it?
Of those same respondents, 68% said that more than a quarter of those employees access emails or work outside of normal office hours. They may have left the office, but they haven’t necessarily left work…
The concept of work and life being two things we need to balance can set us up for failure. More realistically, we need to start talking about work-life blend. This is more fluid, capturing how we actually live our lives.
It sounds obvious to say, but any wellness programme that can reduce absenteeism will generate cost savings.
Survey Results – Importance & Current Provision
61% of respondents reported that their organisation did not provide any wellbeing or resilience development – and yet we know it is a critical component of performance and is essential if we are to thrive in the modern workplace. In fact, 69% felt that Resilience and Wellbeing as an area of development was either ‘Very important’ or ‘Crucial’ to the success of the business.
Employers have embraced many benefits such as pension plans, healthcare, childcare etc, and yet wellbeing is not a mainstream support service. It appears that although all the other benefits entice talent, the talent is not cared for once acquired.
Why would organisations not do this?
Having a wellness programme tells your employees that you respect them, trust and care for them and that you want to help them be successful.
To further demonstrate this dichotomy, Stress and Mental ill health were two of the three highest named reasons for absence and taking time off work, closely followed by back pain and musculoskeletal injuries, many of which can be attributed to sedentary roles, poor posture or stress.
Survey Results – Confidence
And finally, how confident do managers feel about both discussing and addressing mental health issues in the workplace? Once again, our survey showed alarming figures. Around 1 in 3 people said their managers feel ill equipped to be discussing or addressing these issues with direct reports. It has been cited in the survey as a hugely important area for business but if less than 50% of organisations are providing development then it’s little wonder that confidence is so low.
Symptoms of mental health can build up when not properly recognised and, once established, can be harder to combat.
It’s important to create a workplace culture in which people can talk about what’s troubling them. Early intervention is key and, if problems are addressed when they first arise, businesses can support struggling employees from the start before problems really begin to take their toll.
So now what?
It’s clear from our survey that despite the prevalence of stress, there is still a lack of focus on mental health and wellbeing.
Individuals may have a good understanding of the causes but, when it comes to the solutions, many feel unable to have the conversation with their manager or choose to struggle alone.
Only by recognising the role and importance of the employer, manager and individual can the goal of healthy and productive workplaces be reached.
At 3GHR we have several solutions which could help you to tackle the root causes of stress, give managers the confidence and capability to have those impactful conversations about wellbeing, and programmes which give your managers the practical help they need to create a more engaged, mindful, focused and productive work environment for their teams.
To talk to us about our survey results or how we could help or advise your organisation, call +44 (0) 344 5432 121 or email firstname.lastname@example.org