New research has shown that more staff feel that their company has worked to support their mental health during the pandemic. However, it also warns that this progress could be jeopardised due to increased scrutiny. 

The number of staff who feel as though their company provides support for their mental wellbeing has substantially grown since the pandemic, new research from global HR technology company ADP shows.

Whilst almost a quarter of employees (24 per cent) believed that their employer was “not at all” interested in their mental health in 2019, half of UK respondents (50 per cent) have reported their employer providing support for their mental wellbeing during the pandemic.

This comes as one in eight workers globally (13 per cent), and one in six in the UK (15 per cent) cited managing stress as their biggest challenge over the last year. Groups that have particularly struggled include essential workers (19 per cent), women (20 per cent) and young people aged between 18 to 24 (25 per cent).

Despite this growing awareness about the impact of mental health on employees, employer scrutiny has intensified during the pandemic.

Two-fifths of workers (40 per cent) say that their employer is monitoring timekeeping and attendance more closely now than ever.

This has particularly impacted essential workers, nearly half of whom (48 per cent) reported closer monitoring by their employers, compared to a third of non-essential workers (33 per cent).

Alan Price, employment law expert and CEO of BrightHR, previously told HRreview that it is technically legal for employers to monitor computer usage of their employees to keep track of productivity and protect legitimate businesses interests. However, Mr. Price warned of the damaging effects this could have on employer-employee relations as staff could feel “untrusted”.

Jeff Phipps, Managing Director of ADP in UK and Ireland, comments,

Mental health in the workplace is by no means a new concern, but the huge changes of Covid-19 have cast a spotlight on the support employees need from their organisations. Compassionate employers put constructive measures in place to help their workforce handle this turbulence.

However, it is really important that organisations do not undermine their own efforts to support mental wellbeing by becoming too heavy-handed when it comes to monitoring employees.

It is understandable that employers may be finding it more difficult to manage a dispersed or hybrid workforce, and many are resorting to keeping tabs on attendance and time-management.

But this year has shown that everyone works differently, so having people clocking in and out at specific times, or using rigid metrics to define performance, is unlikely to result in increased productivity or engagement. Additionally, by taking a Big Brother-style approach – and forcing some to work in a way that doesn’t suit them – businesses risk adding to workers’ feelings of stress and anxiety.

Mr. Phipps also expressed the importance of formulating a flexible and individualised support system for mental health:

Mental health must be a priority, especially as organisations start to plan their long-term strategies and ways of working.

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all policy, and businesses must be careful to avoid superficial responses. At the moment, organisations and individuals alike are experiencing change on an almost continual basis, so it is also important to acknowledge that what works today in terms of mental health approaches may not work exactly the same tomorrow. Employers must be thoughtful in creating company-wide policies and as flexible as possible in supporting people on an individual basis.

*ADP Research Institute surveyed 32,471 workers in 17 countries around the world between 17th November and 11th December 2020. This was outlined in their People at Work 2021: A Global Workforce View report.





Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.