There’s no denying it –– your UK employees and colleagues are struggling mentally.
At home and at work, people are coping with a lot: mourning the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, an insurmountable cost of living crisis, a widespread labour shortage, and a pandemic that’s blurred the boundaries of work-life balance.
It’s no surprise that feelings of anxiety, depression, loneliness, burnout, and stress continue to grow inside an increasing number of workers. People with existing mental health problems still feel stigmatised, while many employers remain unsure of how to provide the proper support, and are collectively losing billions as a result.
It’s up to People teams to create infrastructure and workplace benefits that support psychological safety and candid conversations about mental wellness. So how can they better understand employees to align company offerings with employees’ needs?
Lattice surveyed 2,000 UK employees about their attitudes and opinions on wellness within the workplace in 2022. Here are some of our key takeaways. For more detailed findings, reach out to [email protected]
1. Mental health continues to be a challenge.
The worst days of the pandemic are behind us, but employees are still feeling the lingering impact of major shifts in the workplace and the economy. In fact, our research revealed that nearly a fourth (23%) of employees believe they feel worse now that they did this time last year, and over half (52%) have seen no change since 2021.
As UK businesses brace for a winter recession, it’s clear that they also need to address the growing challenge of burnout and declining mental health amongst workers.
“For businesses to thrive, particularly in an economic crisis, they need high-performing teams,” said Cara Brennan Allamano, Chief People Officer at Lattice. “Central to this is the wellbeing of staff, offering the right support and resources to motivate and avoid burnout. However, this research reveals employers still have some way to go in tackling this issue head on.”
2. Employers need to take ownership.
The last few years have redefined what employees expect from their employers. The Great Resignation empowered employees to prioritise their needs, and many are now turning to their employers for a sense of stability in the face of global uncertainty. According to Lattice research, almost nine in ten UK workers say employers should play a role in their mental health and wellbeing.
But employers and employees aren’t necessarily aligned on this perspective. In fact, more than 1 in 10 business owners say employers shouldn’t play a role in the wellbeing and mental health of their staff, revealing a clear disconnect regarding the responsibilities UK employers have toward their people.
Prioritising mental health in the workplace may not be top-of-mind for business owners, but reality is that employee wellbeing should be a strategic priority for every organisation. A recent Deloitte study found that poor mental health costs UK employers up to £56 billion a year through its impact on turnover, productivity, and more. This number has risen by a staggering 25% in the last four years, which suggests that businesses need to invest in mental health resources now rather than later.
3. Existing resources are missing the mark.
Perhaps driven by this disconnect over employers’ role in employee wellness, our survey reveals that almost half of UK (41%) employees lack access to mental health resources. This number rises to almost 75% for employees at small businesses with less than 50 people, revealing a strong correlation between organisational size and prioritisation of wellness in the workplace.
For companies that are investing in mental health, there is still a concern of misallocating resources in the wrong areas. While access to mental health services and support groups top the list of benefits provided by employers, employee uptake of these available resources remains low –– with over two-thirds of employees (68%) responding that they have not used the wellness resources available to them in the past six months. The top reason for employees not taking advantage of the support available to them? Lack of interest in the offer.
“Our findings highlight that employers are still getting wellness in the workplace wrong”, said Seth Kramer, Head of EMEA, Lattice. “It’s important to remember that a one-size-fits all approach to mental health and wellbeing is never the solution, but employees want a concerted benefits package that demonstrates an appreciation and understanding of their needs.”
A close second in reasons why employees aren’t engaging with their resources is the concern around mental health stigmas in the workplace. Some workers still struggle with the topic of mental health, as 15% said they feel uncomfortable discussing wellness in the workplace, and 8% are concerned how engaging on the topic will impact peoples’ perception of them. At the end of the day, an organisation’s investment in wellness is only impactful if it’s backed by the leadership and culture of the company.
4. Generational differences should be met with care.
While it’s easy to assume younger generations are driving the need for more mental health support in the workplace, middle-aged and older adults may actually be in greater need of help.
When asked to compare their current mental health to last year, workers over the age of 45 were more likely than younger employees to say their mental health was about the same or worse.
Older adults are at a uniquely high risk of mental illness and negative mental health outcomes due to social determinants such as isolation, discrimination, physical health issues, and strained relationships. In fact, the Mental Health Foundation estimates 85% of older adults with depression in the UK receive no help at all from the National Health Services.
Organisations can — and should — help employees get connected to mental health services through company benefits and offerings, but also ensure they’re providing benefits that are relevant to employees of every age.
While loneliness isn’t specific to any age group, it is the leading cause of depression, and often contributes to anxiety and exacerbates existing mental health conditions. This is particularly a risk for remote or hybrid employees who may not get as much social support as workers who see colleagues daily or live with several other family members and roommates.
Now more than ever, it’s a crucial time for UK employers to start taking wellness in the workplace seriously. After all, fulfilled, balanced, and motivated employees are what make a business thrive.
For a closer look into our survey findings, contact our team at [email protected]