More than seven out of 10 employees working for small and medium-sized businesses say they have received no mental health support from their employer throughout the pandemic.
A poll of 1,031 workers by the software platform GetApp found 71% of SME employees complained they had received no mental health support during the pandemic, despite mental health and emotional wellbeing falling sharply – by, in fact 14 percentage points – since the first lockdown two years ago.
Less than a fifth of employees (18%) felt able to tell their manager they were suffering from mental health issues in the workplace.
Even then, this often led nowhere, as 16% of those managers who had been approached by an employee did nothing about it
Many leaders, too, were uninterested in their employees’ wellbeing, with 11% of employees who felt they were suffering from a mental health issue saying their manager had never addressed the topic with them.
Nearly a quarter of those polled (23%) said they did not feel comfortable discussing their mental health condition with a superior at work and so preferred to seek help externally.
Mental health at work
However, more than a third (36%) admitted they wouldn’t talk to anyone at work about their mental health, even if it was deteriorating.
Where managers did provide support, more than half (55%) took action by taking time to listen to employees’ mental health concerns. Around a third (30%) encouraged their staff to take time off and a quarter (27%) began scheduling regular check-ins.
Nearly half (42%) of employees said they found this support very helpful, 38% said it was “somewhat” helpful and 18% found it unhelpful.
Of the 29% of employees who received mental health support from their company, two-thirds (66%) said they received advice via email, 39% through in-person meetings, 24% by printed materials and 18% via virtual workshops.
The mental health resources rated most valuable by respondents included: more flexible work schedules (44%), mental health days (36%), and access to a specialist to assist and provide employee support (24%).
Yoga and nutritional wellness programmes were voted the least useful resources, at 13% and 14% respectively.
David Jani, UK content analyst at GetApp, said: ‘The Covid-19 pandemic has been hugely disruptive to everyday life, and workplace mental health has suffered partially as a result of that.”
The fact that so many employees received no mental health support at all from their company during the pandemic should “be a cause for concern for business leaders”, he added.
The unwillingness of many employees to open up, either to managers or often to anyone in the workplace, was also something that needed to be concerning to employers, HR and occupational health, Jani argued.
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“It therefore appears that companies should focus on doing more to create a culture of openness and transparency when it comes to matters of mental health, to better address these issues,” he said.