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Mental health presenteeism rising

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New research from Canada Life highlights that taking time off for a mental illness is still less accepted than taking a sick day for physical health. This is despite the rise in public awareness of mental health issues, and the fact that it is an employer’s duty of care to take note of their employees’ welfare, and part of this is building awareness of mental health amongst employees.

The Canada Life research highlights that mental health presenteeism is a growing issue in the UK. Over a fifth (22%) of employees went in to work when feeling mentally ill last year, up from 18% in 2016, despite the number of employees not taking a sick day decreasing from 54% in 2016 to 47% in 2017. 21% admit that they are more likely to go in to work when feeling unwell from a mental health problem, rather than a physical illness, while 15% state that their boss and colleagues would not take them seriously if they took time off for a mental health issue, an increase from 12% in 2017. Meanwhile, the same proportion worry that taking time off for a mental illness would jeopardise their opportunities for progression.

Lack of awareness for support

These figures clearly show that organisations are not doing enough to breakdown the stigma of mental health and to increase the support offered to their employees. In fact 35% of employees are not currently aware of any form of support their workplace offers to manage sickness absence, while 13% definitely do not have any support options available to them.

Mental health issues can be extremely isolating, yet they can be combated and improved with greater workplace support and a change in attitudes towards mental health. 28% believe flexible working options would help with both their physical and mental health, while 19% think that better workplace support would be beneficial.

How to increase mental health awareness at work

In order to increase awareness of mental health at work, it is important to value the diversity and transferable skills that mental health issues can bring and to support disclosure.

Give people positive reasons to disclose by establishing a culture that values openness and authenticity from the top down. With this openness it is important to also support the development of compassionate and effective line management relationships so that when people do disclose, they are met with good peer and line manager support. Provide opportunities for managers to attend relevant training to support staff living with mental health problems and the wellbeing of all staff more widely.

If you would like more information on how you can create a wellbeing strategy that supports the mental health of your employees, contact us today for a FREE consultation.

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