Mental Health Awareness Week | HR hit hard by mental health absences

Each year, Mental Health Awareness Week takes place and this year it falls between May 13th and 19th 2019. The week aims to increase awareness of mental health challenges and spark action to promote the message of good mental health for all. With 2019 TUC research revealing that Brits work the longest hours in the EU, it is no surprise that over a third of Brits are feeling more stressed than they did two years ago. So, the mental health of employees is crucial not only for personal wellbeing but to keep business ticking over. And with technology blurring the lines between professional and personal life, constant work-related communication is giving workers little downtime and headspace away from the office. What is mental health? According to, mental health incorporates our emotional, psychological and social wellbeing and it affects how we think, feel and act. It also helps challenge each year, it is no surprise that these challenges are bought to work. But is there discrepancy between the professions touched by mental health? HR hit by mental health absences A recent study conducted by found that healthcare staff (26%) are the most likely profession to take time off work for their mental health, with media workers (23%) ranking in second and education (21%) in third position. When polled, 3,000 employees were asked: “Have you ever taken time off work for your mental health?” Read on to find out the ten most likely sectors. 1. Healthcare – 26% (of employees have taken time off work for their mental wellbeing) 2. Media – 23% 3. Education – 21% 4. Banking/Finance – 19% 5. Public Sector – 17% 6. HR/Personnel – 15% 7. Retail – 13% 8. Marketing – 12% 9. Construction – 11% 10. Transport/Travel – nine per cent. Burnout and work-related stresses were cited as the main reason for wellbeing-related absence from work. Additionally, respondents were found to have taken an average of three weeks off for their mental wellbeing, with 34% saying that they received full pay during this period and 57% received reduced pay. Georgia d’Esterre, Head of Marketing at, commented: “Looking after your mental health is often far harder than looking after your physical self. After finding that one in 14 of our claims last year were related to mental wellbeing, we wanted to see how each sector is affected by this growing crisis. “With mental health services overstretched and employees having to work harder than ever before just to make ends meet, we need to remember to take the time to look after ourselves.” While in some cases employers have made noticeable progression with regards to workplace mental health, it seems as though employers shouldn’t rest on their laurels – not yet anyway. Key factors heightening employee mental health New research from Peldon Rose has found that two-thirds of employees have ‘poor’ or ‘below average’ mental wellbeing. 95% of respondents believe that their workplace environment is key for their mental health and wellbeing. ‘Increasing or heavy workloads’ (56%) and ‘limited time to focus on wellbeing’ (46%) were cited as leading causes of workplace stress. Despite almost 49% of workers wanting a yoga and meditation room as well as sporting facilities (50%) to increase wellbeing, it seems that 26% of employees feel that their employer is doing nothing to help them cope with stress. Increased stress levels can prompt mental health, so it is important that employers increase support for employees. Employers and managers need to do more Some employers have implemented counselling services and training courses to increase awareness and help employees cope with mental health challenges whilst at work. However, City & Guilds is calling on employers and managers to take the reins when it comes to mental wellbeing in the workplace following research that 52% of employees in global organisations have encountered bullying or have felt psychologically unsafe at work. Group Director of Employee Experience at City & Guilds Group, Nicky Pattimore, commented: “This Mental Health Awareness Week we need to shine a light on the importance of psychological safety in the workplace. Good mental health at work and good management go hand in hand; the more leaders prioritise psychological safety, the more likely they are to realise the benefits of an engaged, trusting workforce.” So, what have employers implemented to support staff at work? Jennifer Kirby, Head of Corporate Wellness at Smarkets exclusively told HR Grapevine that wellbeing means different things to different people. Since joining the online betting exchange in 2017, she has recognised the importance of having mental health first aiders on site. “I organised for some of us to go on a mental health awareness course earlier this year and now we have official mental health first aid officers in the office. We hope to roll out some of this training to the team leaders in the office so that we are much better equipped to deal with people who are suffering with anxiety and stress and we can spot those signs early on.” Additionally, Smarkets has introduced a counselling scheme. Kirby explained that this is a co-pay system “whereby Smarkets offers to pay 75% of someone’s therapy of treatment, is capped at the moment at £100 per treatment but it’s a fantastic scheme that we offer”. But it seems that the buck doesn’t stop here. In future, Kirby has her sights set on extending therapy sessions to include acupuncture to aid physical employee wellbeing. But these aren’t the only area of wellbeing that the firm has focussed on. Kirby has spent a lot of time focussing on wider employee wellness which included choosing plants that complement the office space and benefit both employees and guests. “It gives a sense of relaxation in the air and it improves air quality. This has been a huge addition to the office, and it was the beginning of me trying to put in place these kind of wellness initiatives and just to think about wider wellness a little bit more.” And in 2018 Kirby received the Gold Leaf Design and Installation Award for making the office greener, improving the air quality and creating a more relaxing environment. There are many things that employers can do to support employee mental health.