Mental health at work becoming less taboo, say BCC and Aviva

Almost 30% of businesses have seen an increase in the number of staff taking time off for mental health reasons, according to a survey conducted by leading business organisation British Chambers of Commerce, and Aviva, the UK’s largest insurer.

One in three (33%) business leaders have also noticed an increase in the length of time that staff are taking off due to mental health issues.

The survey, of over 1,000 business leaders from every region and nation of the UK, suggests that firms are more aware than ever of mental health concerns in the office, and that the topic is becoming less taboo for both employees and employers alike. 

The findings suggest that employers are supporting staff with mental health issues, from reviewing individual workloads (36%) and flexible working options (35%), to organising counselling for staff (20%) and training for managers to better support staff (18%).

However, the findings also suggest that firms could do more. Nearly half (49%) of those surveyed said that they did not access occupational health support for their staff from external bodies, and 10% were not aware of any available support.

Adam Marshall, BCC Director General, said:

“As the world of work changes, it is absolutely crucial for business leaders to pay ever closer attention to the health and wellbeing of their employees – especially at a time when firms are facing severe challenges finding and retaining the skilled staff they need. 

“While legions of firms are now more aware of mental health concerns and acting accordingly, far too many businesses are still turning a blind eye to this issue, which saps productivity, morale and individual wellbeing. Our message today is that it is no longer acceptable for firms to ignore mental health in the workplace, and all companies need to step up their game.

“Tackling mental health concerns in business need not break the bank. Reviewing workloads, considering flexible working practices, and improving the skills of managers are simple measures that can help all firms build a happier and more productive workforce.”

Dr Doug Wright, medical director at Aviva, added: 

“It is encouraging to see that more businesses are not only more aware of the topic of mental health in the workplace but also actively offering initiatives like flexible working options to help encourage a healthy work-life balance.

“It is, however, worrying to see almost a third of businesses have seen an increase in people taking time off for mental health reasons and whilst some of this increase may be down to staff feeling more able to discuss the issue of mental health which is, in itself, good news, it also suggests that more can be done to help.

“Looking at our claims data for protection insurance we know that mental health conditions are the number one reason for rehabilitation referrals, and that early intervention by experts can bring a huge benefit to employees, helping them make a safe and timely return to work. 

“It is therefore important to look at what health and wellbeing initiatives are on offer to staff to make sure they have a breadth of options to support them. Doing so will reap rewards for both employee and employer. We believe in this so much it’s something we are doing for our own staff already.”

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