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Mental health is main reason for time off

18 January 2023

WORKPLACE WELLBEING has been thrust into the spotlight with GoodShape’s 2021 UK PLC Workforce Health Report revealing that mental health issues constituted the number one reason for time taken off work last year — more so even than positive Covid tests.

The study showed that over 54% of workers who take two or more mental health absences would ultimately leave their current job with the direct cost of absences throughout 2021 estimated to be a shocking £43 billion (excluding additional costs such as overtime, temporary staff, admin fees etc). As the pandemic continues into 2022 and such workplace absences are forecast to rise, businesses should be preparing to safeguard against further damage.

This year, The Watercooler and various partners have come together to champion mental health in the workplace, creating tools, techniques, and resources to help businesses adapt.

The Watercooler, a two-day event on 23-24 February, will host a programme filled with advice and actionable insight for business leaders and HR professionals with regards to approaches and guidance for addressing the health topics that we often find tough. 

BHSF will be among the partners leading workshop sessions at The Watercooler, addressing issues that arose from their Big Return survey of 2000 UK employees, such as the stark reality that 40% of workplace absence is due to mental health issues — a figure “projected to be in the region of 70% by 2023”. explains BHSF group chief executive Heidi Stewart. Their results also indicated that “half (50.5%) of employers have not provided any health and wellbeing support during the pandemic.” 

One of its most significant findings uncovered a worrying one-third (30%) of employees who would not feel comfortable discussing any mental health, physical health, grief, or financial concerns with their line manager. Of the remaining two-thirds who said they would discuss concerns with management, this figure drops to 41% if the concern was mental-health–related. It’s increasingly clear that many employees are getting left behind.

Simon Berger, founding partner of The Watercooler and Mad World Summit, offers some starting suggestions for employers and business leaders:

  • Prioritise mental health and workplace wellbeing. Empathy is such a key asset to any business model, and staff who feel well looked-after are far more likely to give their best back to you. Particularly with at-home or hybrid work models, people may begin to feel isolated, so having regular moments where you check in and offer support is vital. If it’s in your capacity, offering regular one-to-ones with a trained member of staff has proven highly valuable for many businesses and employees. 

  • Offer flexibility in how your employees operate. Not everyone is the same, and understanding the diverse needs of your staff — particularly those who are neurodivergent or have disabilities — is increasingly important. Having rigid structures that fall harder on the shoulders of some will make your workplace less inclusive; keep an open dialogue with your staff to understand any unique needs they may have — and really listen.

You can see the report here: UK PLC Workforce Health Report