Mental health is now the top wellbeing concern for employers, as hybrid and remote working models increasingly become the norm, according to a poll.
The survey of 500 HR decision-makers for Towergate Health & Protection found that, for nearly half of all employers (49%), mental health is now their biggest health and wellbeing concern now that remote working has become accepted practice.
The survey is one of a number on mental health and wellbeing that have been published ahead of Mental Health Awareness Week, run by the Mental Health Foundation and runs from 15 to 21 May.
Social wellbeing was next in the Towergate poll, highlighted by 39% of employers, and again related to the possible isolation that can come with hybrid and remote working.
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Financial health and physical health came in third, rated the top concern by 30% of the employers polled. This was, again, a reflection of the more sedentary working patterns that can come with remote working but also the impact of the cost-of-living crisis.
Just 14% of employers surveyed said they had no concerns regarding the health and wellbeing of their employees under new remote working regimes.
Debra Clark, head of wellbeing at Towergate Health & Wellbeing, said: “Mental health is a spectrum, and everyone must consider their emotional wellbeing at some level. Support in the workplace now ranges from resilience training to stress and anxiety management, to assistance for more serious cases of mental ill health. It is important that employers are fully aware of what is available and communicate to their employees as to where to find help.”
Separately, four in five UK tradespeople say they experience mental health problems because of their work.
The survey of 500 tradespeople by the websites IronmongeryDirect and ElectricalDirect found that more than two-thirds (68%) experienced some form of mental health problem, such as stress, anxiety or depression, every month, and more than a quarter (30%) experienced symptoms every single week.
The cost-of-living crisis was the number one concern, highlighted by 39%, with the rising cost of materials a further major factor. Financial worries also remained high, with 39% now admitting to doing extra shifts to make ends meet, so raising fears of burnout.
Yet, at the same time, 84% said they did not feel comfortable talking about their mental health.
Anxiety and physical ill health
With anxiety set to be the theme of Mental Health Awareness Week, the group risk insurance body GRiD has highlighted the links between it and physical ill health.
Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for GRiD, said: “Anxiety can in itself be debilitating but one thing can also very quickly lead to another where anxiety is concerned.
“Serious conditions such as panic attacks, depression, substance misuse, insomnia, digestive/bowel problems, headaches, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, chronic pain, social isolation, and agoraphobia, can all stem from anxiety, which can detrimentally impact an individual’s ability to function well at work as well as their overall quality of life.
“When anxiety is suspected, it’s vital that support can be accessed quickly before it progresses. That is where employee benefits, such as group risk products (employer-sponsored life assurance, income protection and critical illness) can help,” Moxham added.
Finally, nurse-based support service RedArc has made the case for a more nuanced approach to mental health support.
Commercial director Christine Husbands said: “Many people may be currently experiencing anxious feelings due to a number of things, including the current cost-of-living crisis, but this type of anxiety is not necessarily a mental health disorder that needs clinically diagnosing, nor does it necessarily need treating.
“It is essential to appreciate that not every negative feeling is a mental health concern. Life is, at times, sad and stressful, but stress is not always anxiety, and sadness is not necessarily depression.
“Good mental health support needs to include assistance to help people recognise and normalise these reactions to challenging life events and develop healthy coping mechanisms and resilience when times are tough, and to know when to seek medical support if these feelings are pronounced or prolonged. Those who work within mental health support know just how important self-awareness and self-help are in terms of good mental health,” Husbands added.