According to new research by Aviva, three-quarters (74%) of UK employees who have experienced a mental health condition reported that stigma towards mental health in the workplace has reduced in the past year – but there’s more work to be done .
Many employees still feel unable to discuss their mental health with their managers, with fewer than 10% of employees saying they will do so, and only 9% who have a mental health condition reporting that they sought help from their line manager.
While 12% of employees would discuss their mental health with a work colleague, only 4% would talk to HR, emphasising a divide between colleagues and management. It is far more common for UK employees to reach out to people they know outside the workplace for support, including:
- Family member (41%)
- Friend (38%)
- Health professional (36%)
- Online research (19%)
- Counsellor (17%)
- Work colleague (12%)
- Line manager (9%)
- HR (4%)
This may be because employers think they’re doing a better job of supporting their employees than they are. A huge majority (77%) of employers said that they’re ‘good at identifying when team members are under pressure’, yet only 37% of employees agreed with this statement – suggesting that there is a gap between how well companies think they’re doing (and perhaps how well they say they’re doing) and how workers feel they’re supported at work.
Again, peer-to-peer support is strongest even in the workplace, where over half of employees had worked with someone who experienced a mental health condition. More than a third (76%) of employees said they were concerned about their colleagues and did their best to help, and just 5% saying they were sceptical of whether their colleague ‘actually had an issue’.
Perhaps the prevalence of mental health issues at work has contributed to a growing recognition that people should not have to hide their mental health struggles or put on a brave face if they are having a hard time, and now 88% of employers and 87% of employees agree that ‘it’s OK not to feel OK’. Equal numbers of employers and employees (74%) agree that the stigma associated with mental health has decreased over the past few years.
Dr Subashini M, Associate Medical Director, UK Health & Protection at Aviva calls this a step in the right direction. ‘However, there still seems to be a disconnect where employers say that they want to support mental health in the workplace, but employees don’t feel that they are receiving it,’ he says.
‘Over three-quarters (77%) of employers have said that they’re “good at identifying when team members are under pressure”, yet only 37% of employees have agreed with this statement, so why is this message not landing?’
In order to bridge this gap, Dr M says employers need to recognise that there is a difference between saying and doing things. ‘A conversation about mental health doesn’t always mean supporting a colleague through depression and anxiety.
‘Everyone can experience triggers and symptoms that impact their mental health. The disconnect is apparent when tasks asked of employees to not change nor does the workplace culture, despite the acknowledgement of wanting to support mental health in the workplace.’