The youngest generations, as well as those with disabilities, and those identifying as neurodivergent or LGBTQIA+ are feeling the strain the most

  • New research paints a stark picture of the global scale and impact of mental health challenges faced by employed people in the workplace
  • In the UK, the report shows just 38% of employees answer positively when asked whether the heads of their organisation talk about mental health at work
  • Yet, when senior business leaders openly address the topic, UK employees are much more likely to feel their employer cares about their mental health – 85% compared with only 34% where senior business leaders do not speak about the topic, leading to broader benefits to the business or organisation
  • The Global Business Collaboration for Better Workplace Mental Health (GBC) is calling on senior leaders in the UK and worldwide to sign up to its Leadership Pledge to accelerate progress

London, Wednesday 12 June 2024 – Despite conversations around mental health having now entered the mainstream, mental health issues continue to affect all parts of the UK and indeed global workforce.

 More than half of UK employees (55%) admit to either be dealing with ongoing mental health challenges at work or to have previously experienced them, according to new research1 released today by The Global Business Collaboration for Better Workplace Mental Health (GBC).

Mental health challenges are very much a mainstream experience for people in the workforce in the UK, across all types of roles – with blue (53%) and white (57%) collar workers likely to have faced or be facing them. Across the generations, younger workers feel the strain the most, with both Gen Z (68%) and Millennials (60%) admitting that they are currently facing or have previously faced challenges related to their mental health. For older generations the numbers reporting are lower, but still significant – with Gen X at 52% and Boomers at 32%.

Across all employees, nearly two thirds (65%) feel that it’s extremely or very important for employers to prioritise the mental health of their workforce, and leaders play a crucial role: more than 4 in 5 workers (85%) feel that their employers care about their people’s mental health in organisations where senior leaders are vocal about the topic, whereas only 1 in 3 workers (34%) feel that their employer cares when they are silent. Workers also have a stronger desire to quit when leaders are not speaking about mental health – 32%, compared with 22% when they do speak out.

The extensive study gathered responses from over 12,200 employees, across all generations, 12 countries, and multiple industries and job roles. The research includes fast-growing economies such as India, China, Nigeria and Brazil, where little or no research on mental health and wellbeing at work has been carried out to date. It identifies that there are factors at work that could be contributing factors to employees’ mental health challenges, and work is an aspect of people’s lives which mental health challenges directly impacts.

 The ground-breaking report provides evidence to galvanise business leaders worldwide to commit to prioritising and investing in the mental health of their employees through tangible and evidence-based action. GBC’s Founding Partners – BP, BHP, Clifford Chance, Deloitte, HSBC, Sodexo, Unilever, Visa and WPP – came together to form a unified group of multinationals to help resource, drive and advocate for change in this space2. The findings should accelerate truly inclusive working cultures across the globe, creating psychological safety for employees now and in the future.

Among the key findings, ‘Mental Health in the Workplace: a Global Picture’ identifies the following areas of concern among the UK workforce:

  • Experience of mental health challenges is prevalent among a significant proportion of the UK’s working population, especially in younger and under-represented groups. Experiences of mental health challenges in the UK skews strongly to Gen Z (68%) especially for ongoing struggles. Almost all marginalised groups are more likely to experience these challenges, especially those who are neurodivergent (85%), as well as those with a disability (77%) and those from the LGBTQIA+ community (62%).
  • Stigma around mental health is still commonly felt across UK workplaces and is holding people back from being open – with over one-third of workers (35%) agreeing that there is stigma in the workplace associated with mental health challenges, and, in those workplaces, over half (57%) of those who have experienced mental health challenges claiming they personally have felt stigma at some point from colleagues.
  • And, worryingly, for those who have told their managers about mental health challenges experienced, nearly 1 in 2 (47%) have faced discrimination when opening up about their mental health struggles.
  • Work itself is a significant contributor to mental health challenges in the UK, with nearly half of UK workers (45%) mentioning – when surveyed – that they had experienced stress at work, and more than 1 in 4 (28%) saying their workload undermines their mental health.
  • Mental health challenges directly impact people’s ability to thrive at work. Amongst those who have experienced mental health challenges, a lack of interest, motivation or energy – symptoms often associated with workplace burnout, were most commonly experienced (50% vs 29% amongst those who are not affected). Difficulty focusing was also a factor (41% vs 20%) and nearly a third said their productivity was reduced (31% vs 15%), felt a desire to quit their job (31% vs 18%), or felt angry or irritable towards co-workers or clients (30% vs 15%).
  • Whether senior leaders speak about mental health or not, it impacts individuals’ feelings and behaviours. Those in organisations where senior leaders do not speak up felt a greater desire to quit (32% vs 22%), have been less productive (28% v 24%), or are more likely to have been irritable with clients or colleagues (27% vs 22%).
  • The role of the line manager is key, as their ability to hold mental health conversations makes a significant impact on someone’s experience at work. Workers who feel their line manager is not equipped to have supportive mental health conversations report markedly worse experiences. Half (49%) have felt low levels of motivation (vs 37%), and over a third (35%) report having felt a desire to quit in the month before the survey (vs 18%).
  • In spite of this, many employers are currently underinvesting in their managers’ skills and training in dealing with mental health challenges in the workplace – while over six in 10 (63%) people surveyed feel their manager would be supportive if they shared their mental health challenges with them, only nearly half (45%) of those with management responsibilities say they have had dedicated training on mental health conversations. Where direct/line managers are not well equipped, more than a third (35%) of workers have felt a desire to quit compared with only 18% where they are well equipped.

Poppy Jaman OBE, Chair of The Global Business Collaboration for Better Workplace Mental Health (GBC) & Founder and Executive Vice Chair of MindForward Alliance, said: “The message from today’s new research is clear: the more senior leaders speak up about the topic of mental health, the more the global business community can build, foster and embed supportive cultures in their workplaces. Through open and honest communication and inclusive behaviours around the topic of mental health, leaders can aid and empower a healthy and resilient workforce.

“There’s a measurable impact for businesses too. If those feeling unsupported in the workplace lack motivation and have regular feelings of wanting to quit, the reverse is true for organisations which do support them, all of which can have a positive impact on businesses globally. The sooner workers feel able to disclose difficulties affecting them, the sooner they can get the support they need, enabling them to thrive in their personal lives as well as professional lives.

“Now more than ever, addressing workers’ mental health and wellbeing – at all levels, cultures, and across all sectors and industries – is a business and societal imperative at the heart of employers’ duty of care. We are calling on senior leaders in the UK and the world over to mainstream good mental health practices – from the top down, making it a core business priority.”

Emma Codd, Global Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer, Deloitte (GBC Founding Partner) said “The findings of this important global research serve to highlight the importance of organisations prioritising the mental health of their people. While they show the challenges that remain when it comes to mental health in the workplace, they also show the positive impact that leaders can have when it comes to addressing these challenges and reducing stigma through talking about mental health at work.  I hope that organisations find these findings helpful in determining steps that will bring about meaningful and sustained change.”

The GBC is calling on senior leaders around the world to sign its Leadership Pledge and join its community of committed organisations working together to accelerate progress in workplace mental health.

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