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Stress levels have increased, but mental health stigmas prevent workers from sharing concerns

Many workers are reluctant to share mental health concerns with their employer, prompting calls for a stronger focus on employee mental health support.

Reports have continued to emerge of increasing mental distress for employees adapting to new work pressures caused by the pandemic, from tradespeople to frontline key workers.

Office workers are included in those affected, with 1 in 4 employees who have been forced into working from home feeling in need of mental health support.

Now, a poll of 5500 working from home employees, including 500 from across 11 countries, further details the impact of the pandemic on their mental wellbeing.

Carried out by Lloyd's Register, the survey reveals that work-related stress has increased for 69% of workers during the pandemic, despite many (52%) feeling they now have a better work-life balance.

For many, this increase in stress results from managing higher workloads (32%) or adjusting their routine (38%) due to staff shortages, or working longer hours than before the pandemic (22%).

Isolation has also been an issue as 17% of workers feel more isolated from their colleagues, while 1 in 4 feel their employer has not provided additional support for their mental health.

The report also highlights another, more prominent and potential cause for increasing mental health issues: stigma.

Despite the increased levels of stress, less than half (48%) of workers feel comfortable sharing mental health concerns with their employer through fear of a negative impact on their career progression.

At the same time, workers are almost twice as likely to feel comfortable talking to a peer about their mental health than with senior management or HR.

A further 1 in 10 feel they cannot speak to any colleague at all about their mental health.

In the UK, the percentage of people who feel comfortable talking to a colleague about their mental health is slightly lower, but still significant, at 44%.

The findings suggest a need to change workplace training to better support mental health and wellbeing of employees, which is further reflected in the survey results: over half of all those questioned felt that physical safety was prioritised over mental health.

"The results show that more needs to be done to tackle this stigma in working environments," says James Pomeroy, Director of Quality, Health, Environment and Safety at Lloyd’s Register. "Managers should lead by example and talk about their own experiences inside and outside work.

"By being vulnerable, leaders open the door for others to speak about their day-to-day challenges.

"Creating a safe and inclusive environment will help alleviate concerns that poor mental health will impact job progression."

Read more: Despite persistent stigma, workers are optimistic about the future of mental health in the workplace

In January, a survey by CoursesOnline revealed similar findings with regards to workplace mental health stigma.

In a poll of employees from 300 UK businesses, 63% would prefer to talk to family or friends about a mental health concern before talking to a colleague.

Just 12% said they would talk to their line manager, while 4% said they would talk to their HR department – a significantly less popular option than talking to nobody at all (10%).

These figures were in spite of the 60% of employers who had already implemented new mental health policies in response to COVID-19.

“Many organisations around the world pride themselves on inclusivity and diversity," adds Pomeroy.

"It is good to see changes being made to better support their employees, but embracing inclusivity in this way will help revolutionise the way we view well-being in the workplace.

"This is critical because the pandemic has demonstrated that the health of the workforce is the health of a business.”

Read the full report from Lloyd's Register here.


Written by Marco Ricci

Editor and contributor for Talking Mental Health

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