Nearly eight in 10 (78%) managers admit they struggle to spot the signs of poor mental health among their employees, with many suggesting it is not a priority for them, research has revealed.
This finding has prompted a business group to remind organisations to focus on improving employees’ mental health and wellbeing in order to give their business and the economy the best chances of success in bouncing back as the pandemic subsides.
One in five (21%) of the 501 managers polled for the South Westminster Business Alliance study said their company does not consider employee mental health a priority for 2022.
Its survey of more than 2,000 employees found 64% were concerned that managers could not spot the signs of poor mental health, and 71% felt their managers would benefit from mental health awareness training.
With many employees spending more time at home under organisations’ hybrid working policies, 71% of workers felt that the signs of poor mental wellbeing were now easier to hide, and less apparent (67%).
Ruth Duston, CEO of the South Westminster Business Alliance and managing director of business consultancy Primera Corporation, said: “Businesses have shown huge resolve, in spite of ongoing uncertainty and lack of clarity, false starts and numerous knock backs and the resolve to make this recovery a success is stronger than ever. However, we must draw our attention to supporting the workforce – as the backbone of our communities and economy.
“The reality is that employers must prioritise mental health and wellbeing in order to create the best chance for London’s economy to bounce back. It begins with the creation of open, inclusive dialogue so that staff can feel that they can express their worries. From there, businesses must build and refine their mental health offering and have buy-in from all levels of the organisation.”
A separate qualitative study by the South Westminster Business Alliance and King’s College London, conducted last year, found mental health issues amongst London-based employees are emerging as a result of their work, rather than concerns in their personal lives.
One interviewee said: “Commuting was always a major stress for people. I think people really are searching for balance and if they are required to work in London five days a week, that’s almost a bit passe now. People absolutely want to have balance and choice. More and more, even before this [lockdown], they wanted to work from home so they could exercise, take their children to school, they are able to put their needs to the forefront whereas years ago you’d never dare ask.”
That study concluded that organisations should engage with staff about what they would like a mental health and wellbeing strategy to include, and secure meaningful buy-in from leadership to build a programme that reflects and responds to the needs of employees.
Lucy Strang, research associate at the Policy Institute, King’s College London, said: “There is increasing awareness of the rise in mental health challenges, which have been accelerated by the pandemic. It is a crucial moment in time for employees returning to hybrid working, so is vital that businesses do all they can to support.
“Our research finds that participating companies were advocating health and wellbeing checks, so it is encouraging that given time and resource required that they can deliver and better support employees.”