Mental Health in the Workplace

Employers can play an important role in managing workplace stress, ensuring that employees are coping with the day-to-day demands and pressures of their job.

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Claire Griffin
Published: 15 Oct 2018 Updated: 13 Jun 2022

Employers can play an important role in managing workplace stress, ensuring that employees are coping with the day-to-day demands and pressures of their job.

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Stress is becoming an increasingly significant issue within the UK workplace.

In 2016/17, 526,000 workers suffered from work-related stress, depression or anxiety, according to the Health and Safety Executive - contributing to 12.5 million lost working days.

This is a staggering 29% higher than the 8.9 million lost due to musculoskeletal disorders (muscles, bones & joints).

Unlike physical symptoms, it can be difficult for employers to identify if an employee is suffering from a mental health condition.

Results from a recent survey (carried out by a market leading group protection provider) stated that, although 78% of employers were confident that their employees would discuss concerns with them, in contrast fewer than 10% of employees confirmed they would.

Although mental health has had increased media attention since 2016, there continues to be a stigma attached to the issue in the workplace.

For example: technological advances have been identified as a factor that puts pressure on employees’ mental health. Customers increasingly expect an instant (‘always-on’) service, which puts employees under even more pressure. This can also result in the inability to take meaningful time off, away from work.

How to combat workplace stress

Prioritising your employees’ mental health can not only help attract and retain key individuals by demonstrating you value their contribution and performance; it can also have a significant impact on your bottom line, reducing sickness absence and recruitment and training costs.

Employees are happier, healthier, more productive, engaged and loyal if they work for a company which proactively promotes wellbeing for their entire workforce.

When implementing an effective mental health and wellbeing strategy, employers must consider prevention, intervention and protection.

  • Encourage good working conditions: Employees may fear that by admitting they are not coping, they will appear incapable of fulfilling the requirements of their role. Creating a positive culture towards mental health is vital.
  • Appoint a Mental Health Champion(s): Provide access to a stress awareness space, display posters and encourage open conversations about mental health and the support available when employees are struggling. Where practical and appropriate, communicate any upcoming changes within the business.
  • Regular Wellbeing Communications: Ensure employees are aware and also reminded of the support services available to them and their families, whether this is a confidential Employee Assistance Programme, bereavement counselling or direct access to a mental health professional via their Private Medical Insurance provider.
  • Training for line managers: Make sure that your managers are trained to spot early warning signs. It is crucial that employees access the right support at an early stage as this can prevent problems escalating. Complimentary training can be offered by a number of group protection providers and charities.

How can employee benefits support your business?

Although there has been much focus on stress, anxiety and depression, mental health conditions come in many different guises such as anger, eating disorders, low self-esteem and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), to name a few.

Having the right employee benefits package can help you and your company tackle the causes of poor mental health and also promote good wellbeing at work.

A suite of complimentary services are often available from the leading insurers, not only assisting you with your health & wellbeing programme but also enabling you to maximise the return on your investment.

By necessity, this briefing can only provide a short overview and it is essential to seek professional advice before applying the contents of this article. This briefing does not constitute advice nor a recommendation relating to the acquisition or disposal of investments. No responsibility can be taken for any loss arising from action taken or refrained from on the basis of this publication. Details correct at time of writing.


This article was previously published on Smith & Williamson prior to the launch of Evelyn Partners.