As part of the research piece for our recently published Financial Wellbeing Guide, we found that there was a strong correlation between financial worries and poor mental health in British employees. The research also revealed that people with money worries are 3.8 times more likely to suffer from anxiety and panic attacks and are 4.9 times more likely to suffer from depression.
Wanting to investigate healthy attitudes to mental health in the workplace in more detail, we commissioned another survey. This found that almost three quarters (72 per cent) of Brits have experienced mental health issues at some point in the past.
Fifty-seven per cent of line managers and HR professionals that were polled had received training through their employer on how to assist employees with mental health, and many have noticed an increase in the number of colleagues who are coming to HR with mental health issues in recent years.
The top 10 issues Brits were struggling with in 2018 included anxiety (38 per cent), stress (35 per cent), depression (31per cent), sleep deprivation (24 per cent), loneliness (16 per cent), panic attacks (15 per cent), self-esteem (14 per cent), eating disorders (eight per cent), paranoia (seven per cent) and OCD (six per cent).
According to the survey, most workers feel uncomfortable talking about mental health at work, and do not want to tell anybody that they are struggling. Ten per cent also feel worried that opening up might hold them back in their career.
We also delved a bit deeper into job sector, as well as job level. The data revealed that those working in recruitment and HR were most likely to suffer from mental health issues overall and were the sector most susceptible from stress.
Other findings included that: Social care workers were most likely to suffer from anxiety and depression; Environment and agriculture struggled with loneliness and SAD out of all of the sectors; Those working in creative arts and design were most likely sector to struggle with self-esteem issues; Salespeople were most likely to have had experienced suicidal feelings; Hospitality and events management professionals were most likely of all sectors to have a form of eating disorder; Interestingly, energy and utilities were least likely to suffer from mental health issues overall.
The research also found that people working in law enforcement and security were most likely to lie to line manager if they were struggling. On the other hand, leisure, sport and tourism workers were most likely to feel supported by their line manager, with 42.9 per cent trusting them to help with any mental health issues.
On average, Brits took 2.1 days off work in 2018 due to poor mental health. However, in reality, this is just the tip of the iceberg… The research also found that Brits went into work for an additional 12.1 days despite struggling. In total, the average British worker suffered with mental health problems for three working weeks (14.2 working days) in 2018. According to the findings, IT workers took the most mental health sick days (10.8) in 2018, and science and pharmaceuticals look the least (0).
Interestingly, job level does not necessarily correlate to mental health, with a spread of issues across all levels. However, the level may determine how comfortable people feel taking time off. For example, those at senior director level took the most days off work last year due to poor mental health (21.5), and those at supervisor level took the least (1.6).
Those at supervisor level were also the most likely to lie to their manager about poor mental health. Those at a senior function head level (e.g. group financial controller, company secretary) were most likely to be honest about issues with their managers.
Looking at the less common issues, those at director level (e.g. director of HR, chief information officer) were most likely to have sleep problems, whereas those at senior director level (e.g. managing director, deputy chief executive) were most likely to experience uncontrollable anger.
The survey also found that CEOs are more likely to suffer from stress than any other mental health issue, followed by anxiety then depression. Remarkably, these were the top three most common issues for both entry level and CEO level, regardless of the job differences, and the disparity between mental health days off taken by these levels was just 0.4 days (2.4 and 2.8 days respectively).
Being open about mental health in the workplace is important. While there are many positives to be taken from our research, it also shows that we still have a way to go. For example, people feel more comfortable talking about having stomach upsets than mental health – illustrating there still is a stigma attached.
Mental health in the workplace is not an issue designated to one type of person – it is prevalent across all demographics, as well as job sector and job levels. Enabling and supporting employees in their personal lives makes them happier at work, so businesses of all sizes should make mental health in the workplace a priority.
Dhiren Master, Global Insights Director at Salary Finance, a salary-linked employee benefits provider that partners with employers to deliver financial wellbeing for staff. Dhiren has spoken at a number of prestigious HR events and forums on the subject of financial wellbeing and mental health.
He has also held a number of CEO and Marketing Director positions in different industries globally: telecommunications, sporting goods, oil and gas, food retail, automotive services, and worked in Brazil, Canada, USA, India, Sri Lanka and the UK. Prior to this, Dhiren was Head of Global Strategy for BG Group Plc which he joined after 8 years as a strategy consultant. He has also been the Chairman and served on the board of a number of not-for-profit charities.