How much is mental health costing your business?

The discussion around mental health has been ongoing amongst HR leaders now for some time. Especially, during the pandemic which has led to a rise in stress and anxiety.

New research, has found that more than 11 million working adults have taken time off for poor mental health. This can end up costing businesses around 40 million working days a year.

Benenden Health, found that 35% of UK employees took time off work due to poor mental health in 2019, with an average of two to five days off on average.

The study, asked employees to consider the impact of their mental health throughout their whole working life rather than during the pandemic. Over half of the research said that employees were honest with their employer as to why they took time off. However, 3 in 10 said that they would claim a physical injury and 24% saying they used their annual leave to avoid questions.

Many respondents said there is a still a stigma around mental wellbeing at work, and just under quarter wouldn’t know how to identify if a colleague was struggling. However it’s good to see a positive shift of 76% feeling comfortable to talk to them about it if they knew.

37% of men compared to 32% of women are more likely to take time off due to mental health issues, but would be more inclined to cover up the reasons why they took the time off, compared to women.

Over the past two years, many had felt their role had become more stressful, with six in ten stating that their mental wellbeing had deteriorated as a result of work.

Bob Andrews, CEO at Benenden Health, said that, “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 reluctance behind discussing their wellbeing was rooted in the belief, it would lead to others thinking they were incapable at their job and worried they would be treated differently. A massive 23% worried it would also impact their career progression.

To successfully remove the stigma around mental health, employers should create an open culture to ensure employees understand their struggles will be taken seriously and that they are cared for. This, will consequently lead to an increase in productivity and engagement within the workforce. If this is achieved then employers will be rewarded with less lost hours and a happier workforce.