Nearly two in five office workers have little or no trust in their organisation’s ability to treat their mental health as a priority, according to global research that exposes a gap between what employers promise and what they achieve when it comes to mental health support.
Although employees generally felt organisations had taken positive action to improve physical health since the start of the pandemic, research from healthcare and benefits provider Aetna International found that many still believed their mental health was not being prioritised in the way they had hoped.
While 36% said their employer’s communications around mental health issues had been “good” over the past year, only 25% said the same about the concrete steps that had been taken to support mental wellbeing.
This is in sharp contrast to the previous year’s survey, which found that 52% rated their employer’s support for mental health as “good”.
Thirty-eight per cent of the 3,520 office workers polled said they had little or no trust in their employer’s capacity to treat their mental health as a priority.
“Over the last year and certainly throughout the pandemic, businesses have been much more vocal about the importance of employee health and wellbeing,” David Healy, CEO, Europe, at Aetna International said.
“However, many workers still feel that their mental health is not as important to their employer as their physical health and safety.
“We also found that some workers – for example, very young employees or those who work part time – have a more negative view of their company’s approach to health and wellbeing, suggesting more needs to be done to cater to the needs of the entire workforce.”
Employees’ perceptions about physical health support were more positive. Forty-two per cent felt their employer’s actions to support their physical health over the past year had been “good” – particularly when it came to tackling postural or musculoskeletal conditions (38%).
Three-quarters trusted in their employer’s ability to prioritise their physical health.
Asked what employers could do to help improve their wellbeing, many office workers wanted a personalised experience. Forty-one per cent said that personal communication about their needs and overall health would improve their wellbeing, and 35% wanted to be offered more health support that can be personalised to meet their individual needs.
Healy said: “Now is the time for businesses to build upon the good work they’ve already started and make sure their strategies and internal culture are supportive of whole person health – covering everything from physical health, to an individual’s mental and emotional wellbeing.”