New research conducted by leading UK jobs and careers site Reed.co.uk has shed light on the prevailing reluctance among UK employees to disclose mental health or psychological conditions in the workplace.
The study, which involved surveying over 2,000 workers and jobseekers across the UK, uncovers a concerning trend that highlights the need for more open discussions and support around mental health.
According to the findings, a staggering 57 percent of UK employees do not feel comfortable discussing mental health conditions such as ADHD, anxiety, or depression with their colleagues and employers.
This pervasive hesitation to open up about mental health concerns underscores the challenges that still exist in fostering a workplace environment that promotes well-being and open dialogue.
Among the generations, Millennials (born between 1986-1991) emerged as the group least likely to disclose mental health issues, with a significant 57 percent expressing discomfort in doing so.
Interestingly, Baby Boomers (ages 57-75) stood out as the most comfortable generation, with only 45 percent indicating they would refrain from discussing their mental health.
What about within different sectors?
The research also delved into sector-specific variations, revealing that employees within the energy sector displayed the highest level of discomfort when discussing mental health conditions at work, with a staggering 81 percent of them choosing not to engage in such conversations. This was followed by those in engineering (75%) and accountancy (69%). Fear of negative judgment by colleagues and employers was the primary factor cited by energy sector workers (35%), while career progression concerns were most prominent among engineers (37%). Accountants expressed feeling exposed and vulnerable (43%) if they were to discuss their mental health.
Gender disparities were also notable, with 54 percent of men surveyed indicating discomfort discussing mental health with their colleagues, compared to 49 percent of women. Moreover, 42 percent of women voiced concerns about negative perceptions if they took a sick day for mental health reasons, compared to 37 percent of men.
While there is an overall hesitancy to discuss mental health, there are positive signs of progress. About 32 percent of UK workers reported witnessing colleagues open up about their mental health, receiving a positive response, and subsequently feeling comfortable doing the same. Millennials were the most likely to follow this trend, with 38 percent agreeing.
The study’s findings shed light on the top reasons behind the evolving comfort in discussing mental health at work:
- Reduced stigma around the topic – 38
- Positive outcomes of colleagues’ disclosures – 32%
- Friends and family discussing mental health openly – 24%
- Increased mental health discussions on social media – 24%
- Growing TV debates focusing on mental health – 19%
Reed.co.uk, known for its commitment to helping individuals find fulfilling employment, has taken a proactive step in addressing this issue by partnering with mental health charity Mind. The study aligns with Mind’s Workplace Wellbeing Index Insights, which emphasises the pivotal role that line managers play in supporting employee well-being.
Simon Wingate, UK Managing Director at Reed.co.uk, commented on the research, saying, “We’re on a mission to help people Love Mondays every day in their jobs, and a huge part of that is ensuring people feel they can bring their whole self to work and are comfortable and able to open up about any potential mental health challenges.”
He continued, “We need to ensure we’re encouraging employers to create safe, inclusive working environments that workers feel comfortable being themselves in, and we need to empower jobseekers and employees to feel confident if they need to speak up about their mental health.”
The study’s findings underscore the urgent need for employers to prioritise mental health support within the workplace, fostering an environment that encourages open dialogue, understanding, and ultimately, improved overall well-being among employees.
Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.