17 August 2018 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal
Almost 30 per cent of businesses have seen a rise in the number of staff taking time off for mental health reasons, according to a survey conducted by business organisation British Chambers of Commerce (BCC).
One in three (33 per cent) business leaders has also noticed an increase in the length of time that staff are taking off owing to mental health issues.
The survey, conducted with insurance firm Aviva, consisted of more than 1,000 business leaders from every region and nation of the UK. It 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 per cent) and flexible working options (35 per cent) to organising counselling for staff (20 per cent) and training for managers to better support staff (18 per cent).
But the findings also indicate that firms could be doing more.
Nearly half (49 per cent) of those surveyed say they did not access occupational health support for their staff from external bodies, and 10 per cent were unaware 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 well-being 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 well-being. 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 to build a happier and more productive workforce."
Dr Doug Wright, medical director at Aviva, added: "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 well-being 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."