The cost of poor mental health in the workplace has increased, according to a new report by Deloitte and mental health charity Mind
With a sixth of workers experiencing a mental health problem at any one time, and with stress, anxiety and depression thought to be responsible for nearly half of all working days lost in Britain, the relationship between mental health and the workplace is a complex one – and a costly one.
New research by consultancy firm Deloitte suggests that poor mental health cost UK bosses more than £43 billion in 2018 – a 16% increase since the last estimate of £37 billion in 2016. Deloitte said that a range of factors has contributed to a reported increase in cost, including presenteeism, burnout, and an increase in wages during this period.
Poor #mentalhealth costs UK employers up to £45 billion a year and it's increasing. How can businesses take action? https://t.co/JN5hzFm2Ox @MindCharity @BBCNews #mentalhealthatwork pic.twitter.com/9faKFNaQWI— Deloitte UK (@DeloitteUK) January 22, 2020
The study follows up on a government-commissioned review, Thriving at Work, which found that 15% of people at work have symptoms of a mental health condition.
The problem with presenteeism
The new study tracks the increase of ‘presenteeism’ – when people go to work despite not feeling up to it. The data reveals that the overall number of sick days taken per employee fell from 5.3 to 4.4 between 2008 and 2018, while the amount of time lost because of mental health conditions went up.
It is thought that this might be as a result of fear that workers face when talking about being unwell, for the consequences or prejudices they may face from unaccepting employers. As a result, employees are spending unproductive hours at work when ill, rather than taking time off. According to Deloitte, presenteeism is costing bosses more than if staff members were to take a day off.
Some workers are also experiencing ‘burnout’ as technology makes it easier to work outside of designated working hours.
Mental health problems in the public sector
According to the study, people working in the public sector are more likely to take time off because of mental health problems. This corroborates with previous research by the BBC, which found a growing trend in sick leave taken by NHS mental health staff.
The data revealed that staff who had taken sick leave because of their own mental health issues had increased by 22% between 2012-13 and 2016-17. However, as many as 81% of people working in schools, the NHS, or the police still said they “always or usually” go into work when they should take time off for their mental health.
Young people are the most vulnerable
Younger members of staff are the most vulnerable in the workplace, according to Mind. In fact, poor mental health among young people has been described as at “epidemic” levels, as the burden of poor mental health at work seems to be affecting young people disproportionately when compared with other age groups.
Factors such as sickness, lost productivity and higher staff turnover in younger staff members is thought to have cost employers about 8% of the average salary for a young person (aged 18 to 29 years old) in 2018. This roughly equates to £1,723 per employee.
Additional factors such as working under short‐term contracts, in freelance work or without sufficient employer support, is thought to have created working environments that are uncertain for young people; young workers are worried about their financial future.
Additionally, the charity found that young people are more likely to use annual leave instead of taking days off work when experiencing poor mental health.
Read the full report, Mental health and employers: refreshing the case for investment.
How can we combat mental health problems in the workplace?
Workplace wellness isn’t solely the responsibility of the employer or the employee – it requires a partnership and good communication. A good place to start is with mental health first aid (MHFA) training.
And, while completing MHFA training may be costly, as we can see from recent data, the cost of not putting workplace mental health first may be even more costly. Yes, knowing that we have the chance to push mental health safety at work to the top of the agenda alongside physical health, that is priceless.
Look for a mental health first aid training course near you.
For more information about how to approach mental health issues in the workplace, take a look at the following resources.
How to Talk About Mental Health at Work - A six-step guide tackling how to talk about mental illness in your workplace.
Five Things I’ve Learned from Talking About my Mental Health at Work - Happiful writer Kat opens up about her own experiencing of talking about mental health in the workplace.
Reporting a Mental Health Issue at Work - Five considerations about how to broach the topic with your employer.
5 Ways to Improve Your Workplace Wellbeing Right Now - Simple actions you can take right now to feel happier and healthier at work.
10 Ways to Overcome Burnout - If you’re worried you may be experiencing burnout, try these simple ways to start putting your wellbeing first.
5 Signs Your Work-Life Scale is Off Balance - Life Coach Chris Cooper shares five signs to look out for.
How to Find Work-life Balance When You Work from Home - Four tips to help you set boundaries and maintain a healthy work-life balance.