You might not be talking about it, because mental health is still a taboo subject, but many people are experiencing mental health issues at work each and every day. With stress, anxiety and depression rife in many UK workplaces, it’s time we lifted the lid on this sensitive subject to encourage discussions and remove some of the stigma that still exists.
In this post, we’re going to look more closely at workplace mental health in the UK and explore the wellbeing problem in the tech industry. We’ll also share a few personal stories from those who have experienced workplace mental health problems in the past and how supportive work environments have helped them.
Figures from the Health and Safety Executive show that 57% of all annual working days lost in the UK are the result of stress, anxiety or depression - that amounts to a total of 15.7 million working days per year. However, despite the widespread nature of workplace wellbeing problems, there is still a reluctance to discuss them openly.
A recent survey by Babylon Health found that 79% of British adults would not feel comfortable discussing their mental health with their employer, while just 25% said they’d be happy to talk to a colleague. Those figures are hardly surprising, given that 72% of employees said mental health problems were still not discussed enough where they work.
Despite the reluctance to discuss mental health problems at work, ‘workplace pressures’ were one of the leading causes of stress, anxiety and depression in the survey. 45% of the respondents said ‘workplace pressures’ were the main cause of their problems, second only to ‘personal relationships’ (49%).
Corine* opened up about her experiences of mental health at work:
“I'd been working in a very non-diverse work environment where I didn't fit in very well, being the only non-Brit in the company. On top of that, my living situation had been very stressful as my partner and I weren't in a good place. I got diagnosed with depression, something which I never imagined would happen, and started taking antidepressants.”
However, once she switched jobs and began working at a company that put an emphasis on its employees’ mental health and wellbeing, things began to change for the better:
“Despite everything that was going on inside me and in my personal life, work brought some brightness to my day. My manager was very protective of my time, making sure I didn't take on too many projects and had the head space to thrive. My colleagues were kind, supportive and appreciative of my work and initiatives. People would check in on me, but they were never intrusive, allowing me to leave my personal problems at home.”
Research from the British Interactive Media Association (BIMA) suggests that the tech industry has a particular problem with wellbeing at work. Its Tech and Inclusion Report 2019, found those working in tech are five times more depressed than the UK general population. 66% of the UK’s tech community also admitted to feeling stressed by their work, while 52% said they had suffered from anxiety or depression at some point in their careers.
David* shared his experience of mental health issues in the tech industry:
“At a previous employer, I experienced high levels of anxiety brought on by an unmanageable workload, high pressure and low levels of recognition. Although my colleagues were supportive and were always available for a chat, it came to a point where I had to choose between my mental wellbeing and work - and in that case, there can only be one winner.”
As with Corine*, a change in employers was a good thing for David*. When he began working somewhere that had a supportive mental health and wellbeing programme in place, he found that his managers were receptive and understanding:
“I haven't been at my new job for that long, but at times I have been feeling overwhelmed and affected by causes that aren't work related, which I haven't been able to leave outside of the office. I was given the opportunity to work at my own pace, take the breaks that I needed and rest in the lounge area to take a step away from work, without any judgement.”
Although many employees still feel mental health is stigmatised at their workplace, the conversation has progressed massively over the last few years. There are now many UK workplaces where the mental health needs of employees are being supported.
Having a happy work environment is hugely beneficial for everyone. According to over 200 studies on workplace happiness, happy employees have higher levels of productivity, perform better in leadership positions, produce higher sales and receive better pay. They also enjoy more job security, take fewer sick days and are less likely to become burned out. All in all, it’s a win-win for employees and employers alike.
More and more employers are becoming aware of the importance of mental health in the workplace which is a good thing - after all, the statistics show that it's been a long time coming. It’s important that you find a workplace environment that gives you the support you need and takes your mental health and wellbeing seriously - and if you feel that they don’t, it could be time to find somewhere that does!
*Names have been changed to protect the anonymity of those involved
The Good Marketer understands that employee health directly impacts the success of the business and supporting employee’s mental health not only ensures the overall wellbeing of that employee, but also creates a supportive and open workplace setting.
Tom Welbourne, The Good Marketer’s founder, says: “We see being a relatively young company as a positive, because we can cultivate an open and accepting environment from the get go; everyone has a voice and is heard.”
“The Good Marketer also actively promotes flexible working and employees are free to work from home or adjust their working hours, because having that element of flexibility in a role is important to ensure a good work/life balance. We also have dogs which are superb at releasing tension, creating a fun working environment and generally lifting everyone’s mood. Open discussions are always part of our ethos as well, regardless of whether that’s regarding work strategies, workloads and role responsibilities or more personal matters.”
Promoting a narrative of acceptance is the first step in normalising conversations around mental health, and changing the often stigmatised perception of mental health not only in wider society, but in the workplace as well. The Good Marketer is proud to take mental health consideration seriously, and we believe it shows in the overall success of our business and the wellbeing of our employees.