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Keep quiet and carry on - The silent menace in the nation’s offices

58% of UK wouldn’t be comfortable telling their manager about mental health issues

A shocking amount of UK workers have little faith in their employer’s ability to support issues such as mental health, stress and anxiety, a study by CIPD course providers, DPG Plc., has found.

The study (which can be viewed in full here alongside a guide to creating a more inclusive workplace culture) found that a worrying 85% of UK workers thought that there was a stigma attached to mental health issues and stress in the workplace. This may be the root cause for the 58% that wouldn’t be comfortable telling their manager if they were suffering from a mental health issue.

Compounding this is the finding that just 20% of UK workers thought their manager was fully equipped to support mental health, stress and anxiety issues in the workplace.

More than a quarter of respondents (26%) had taken a day off work due to stress and mental health issues and lied about the reason.

The findings highlight a disturbing culture that may be leaving vulnerable workers without the help they need, through fear of appearing weak.

Paul Drew, managing director at DPG said “These findings highlight a need for change in the workplace, and an increase in how visible support in the workplace is. The problem is that, whilst the support networks may well exist, it seems they’re being drastically underused because people fear looking ineffective, weak or compromised.”

According to mental health charity Mind’s resources*, “Ignoring the mental health of your staff comes at a high price. And will only make problems worse. Reduced productivity costs UK businesses up to £15.1 billion a year… [and] stress and other mental health problems are the second biggest cause of work absence, accounting for 70 million lost working days every year.”

Paul Drew continues, “The nation has come a long way when it comes to creating an inclusive and supportive society, but there’s still work to be done. Managers need to create an atmosphere of trust and respect, so that workers are never scared or unable to reveal their issues. To do this, managers themselves need to be given the skills they need to tackle sensitive issues effectively and with tact – that comes from HR and leadership teams.”

Key findings from DPG’s survey:

  • 58% of UK workers wouldn’t be comfortable telling their manager if they were to suffer from a mental health issue.
  • Only 20% thought their manager was fully equipped to support mental health issues in the workplace.
  • 85% thought there was a stigma attached to mental health issues and stress in the workplace.
  • More than a quarter (26%) had taken a day off work due to stress/mental health issues and lied about the reason.
  • Women were more likely tell their boss they had a different illness if they took a day off for stress/mental health issues.
  • 18-24-year olds were the most likely to lie about the reason for needing time off in cases of stress and mental health.
  • Ages 18-24 were also least comfortable telling their manager if they were to suffer from a mental health issue – most common reasoning was they worried about being judged.
  • 45-54-year olds most comfortable revealing mental health issues to managers.

Case studies:

DPG surveyed their community, populated by HR professionals, for their opinions on the issue.

One respondent felt that managers weren’t fully equipped to deal with mental health issues, stating “In my experience there’s a 'grow up and get over it' attitude and a lot of hostile behaviour. People can be made to feel like they’re causing trouble because it’s something [the business] couldn't deal with.”

Another respondent worried that managers “really should be aware of the impact their dismissive attitude is having”, suggesting that managers should instead “encourage a culture where it is ok to talk. Get the buy in from senior managers and raise mental health awareness by rolling out training programmes.”