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Half of employees worried about discussing mental health at work

Two female colleagues having a discussion in the office

Mental health is no longer the taboo subject it once was, thanks in part to high-profile people like Stephen Fry and Prince Harry opening up about their own struggles.

The Covid-19 pandemic has also increased awareness and discussion of mental health as lockdowns and uncertainty over the future have caused stress and anxiety for many people.

However, despite the progress that has been made in talking about mental health, there is still a stigma around the issue in many workplaces.

A recent survey of over 6,000 UK-based employees found that nearly half would be reluctant to discuss mental health issues at work due to concerns that the discussion could harm their career.

Yet over a third of employees (35%) surveyed by business software provider MHR took time off for mental health issues in 2021.

The findings are in line with an earlier survey by not-for-profit healthcare provider Benenden Health, which found that 41% of UK employees wouldn't feel confident discussing any health issue with their employer. Many said they were worried about what it would mean for their career and relationships within the workplace.

The survey of 2,000 employees and 500 business owners revealed the most common ailments that workers have not disclosed to their employer are poor mental health, high blood pressure and arthritis -- all conditions that could be exacerbated in the workplace.

Focusing in particular on mental health, there is much that employers can do to make their workers feel more comfortable talking about it.

Leading by example is a good way to start. If business owners and senior managers talk about mental health, they will begin breaking down the taboo.

Mental health awareness training across the organisation is also valuable. Having mental health first aiders on board -- with employees aware of them -- is a practical way of demonstrating the company's positive approach to the issue.

Regular manager check-ins with team members can also help to identify matters of concern, including mental health.

Further support is available with an employee assistance programme (EAP), an employee benefit that provides support and practical advice on issues that might be impacting people's wellbeing and performance.

"Organisations only get the most from their people when they can be their whole selves. When they feel comfortable in their own skin, able to trust the people around them," said Eugene Farrell, chair of industry body the Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA) UK.

"That's the way to tap into people's true potential in terms of teamworking and creativity, as well as effort and engagement.

"Being able to talk honestly about health, physical and mental is all part of that process of unlocking people's full potential. An EAP is a critical part of a support offering, the chance to speak in confidence with professionals."

Farrell added, however, that this needs to be "part of a wider culture of healthy attitudes to people and what really constitutes being strong: hiding your worries or facing up to them head-on?"

Posted by Fidelius on November 1st 2021

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