While mental health has finally made its way on to the national agenda, it is still a relatively new issue within the context of the workplace. So, whilst many employers wouldn’t think twice about allowing an employee with a broken leg to work from home, or take time off to recover from an operation, the same understanding isn’t always there when it comes to mental health.

We surveyed over 1,000 employees and used our findings to create an employer’s guide to Mental Health in the Workplace. We discovered that despite seven in ten employees having suffered with a condition related to mental health, only 23.8% of employees said their company regularly engages with them on the issue of mental health.

And over half of employees said that their employer either doesn’t have an official mental health or wellbeing policy (27.9%); or they don’t know whether they do (26.1%), which indicates a real lack of proactive mental health support in many workplaces. 

Why mental health matters

We found that promoting employee mental health at work is crucial if employers want to attract and retain committed employees. Almost half of employees (45.6%) would look to move jobs if their employer didn’t provide enough support in relation to their mental health.

If employees do decide to move on it can significantly cost your business – through searching and recruitment costs, time spend on handovers and training and lost productivity while new recruits get up to speed. The cost will range depending on the company and employee’s seniority level, but it’s said to be £11,000 for the average individual, and over £40,000 for a senior member of staff.

And attitudes on mental health shift with the next generation

As we dug deeper into this issue, we found a very interesting generational difference. Over half of 18-24-year-olds (50.5%) and 25-34-year-olds (57.4%) would look for alternative employment if their current employer didn’t support their mental health enough. Whereas for employees aged over 65, only 25.8% would look elsewhere.

These findings suggest that attitudes towards mental health – and expectations within the workplace – are shifting with the younger generations. We spoke with several different employees about this shift and here are just a few of the responses we heard:

“As the years have gone by, people discuss it [mental health] more, especially the younger generation.”

“There is a generation issue – younger people are more open, but the older generation don’t want the intrusion; it’s up to the individual.”

“It’s a generational thing; older people try and sort it out themselves, whereas the younger ones are more willing to talk.”

With the youngest generations in today’s workforce – Millennials and Generation X – now said to be the two biggest groups in the working population, it’s crucial that employers take their needs into account in order to remain competitive enough to recruit and retain the best young talent.

How employers can improve their wellbeing strategy

It seems clear that having a mental health policy in place can help to retain and attract employees. Our research highlighted some clear and simple steps, in addition to creating a formal policy, which employers could take to improve their wellbeing strategy:

·         Access to a confidential mental health helpline: Almost seven out of ten employees (69.1%) would use a confidential mental health helpline provided by their current or future employer if they were experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition.

Benenden Healthcare for Business now includes a comprehensive 24/7 EAP helpline, where employees can get expert support and advice on a range of issues like stress, bereavement, legal and financial issues.

·         Provide line managers with appropriate training: Eight out of ten employees (83.2%) think it would be helpful if all businesses provided mental health awareness training to line managers.

Read our employer’s guide today

Whilst these tips are a good starting point for any employer, our employer’s guide to Mental Health in the Workplace provides more detailed guidance on how best to help and support your staff – before, during and after any mental health issues occur. Our suggestions are backed up by our research findings and the interviews we conducted with employees.

Interested? Download the report for free