19% of us are more likely to go into work if mentally ill than physically ill and 12% think that our boss and/or colleagues have a poor understanding of mental health issues.

According to research carried out by Canada Life Group Insurance, 18% of employees continue to go into work even when they’re feeling mentally unwell.

Although mental health has become a prevalent issue in the UK in recent years, the survey suggests that we still deem it to be a taboo subject. 19% of us are more likely to go into work if mentally ill than physically ill and 12% think that our boss and/or colleagues have a poor understanding of mental health issues.

Many of us are worried about how our boss or colleagues would react to us taking time off because of mental health - 20% say they would be too embarrassed to be open about the subject.

Furthermore, 13% say that they would worry about their future job prospects if their employer was aware they have mental health problems and 12% fear their boss would no longer take them seriously.

Marketing director at Canada Life, Paul Avis commented:

“People suffering from mental health issues should be focusing on getting better rather than struggling into the office. You wouldn’t go into work if you were too physically unwell to do so. Too many employees come in because they’re worried about how having a mental illness will affect their job prospects or relationships with their colleagues.”

He continued:

“It’s important to communicate not only that it’s okay for them to take time off to get better, but also that there won’t be any negative impact on their career for doing so.”

How to help employees suffering from mental health problems

Mental health can be a difficult subject to address but it’s crucial that it’s done so properly and sensitively. If you don’t already have a policy in place within your business, now is the time to do so.

If staff know exactly what to do and who to come to, the problem is far more likely to be dealt with promptly. Not only does this improve the long-term wellbeing of your staff, it also means that you’re not faced with lengthy periods of people going off on sick leave.

The Canada Life Group Insurance survey also questioned employees about the ways they think employers can help in this situation.

  • 37% said that offering flexible working would make them more comfortable when taking time off for illness.
  • 34% said a more positive workplace attitude towards health and wellbeing would be beneficial.
  • 26% wanted less pressure be ‘always on’ and working.

Virgin Trains is one of the many companies which are starting to have a strong focus on improving the mental wellbeing of their staff. As well as introducing a dedicated in-house Health and Wellbeing team, they have appointed mental health champions within the business which provides people with the opportunity to share their own mental health stories and offer and receive peer support.

Speaking about the issue, people director for Virgin Trains, Clare Burles commented:

“We know that mental health issues have a significant impact on UK businesses and as a caring employer, we have a responsibility to support our people in the best possible way. More needs to be done by companies to remove the stigma around mental health and to enable open conversations to take place. Employees need to feel at ease to speak up and most importantly, feel supported when they do.”

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