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Mental Health UK Reports Extreme Workplace Stress: What You Need to Know

Mental Health UK, a leading charity that supports people to understand and manage their mental health, has revealed some alarming insights for the workplace in a landmark report.

February 2024

Their first annual ‘Burnout Report’ has revealed that one in five adults in the UK have needed to take time off work due to stress in the past year. This paints a worrying picture of the lives of employees, which needs to be addressed in the workplace. It also highlights an important need to equip employers and employees with the means to support and understand mental health.

In this article, we’ll be summarising some of the key points from the report that are applicable to the workplace as well as how we can all work together to help combat them.

What is the ‘Burnout Report’?

Mental Health UK acknowledged how the world had evolved rapidly in recent years and the challenges that have arisen as a result of the pandemic, cost-of-living crisis, as well as social and technological changes. They outlined the aim of the research and ‘Burnout Report’:

“Our research, conducted by YouGov, set out to gain greater insights into public awareness and understanding of burnout, explore our relationship with stress and pressure both in and out of our working lives, and the factors that contribute to burnout for adults in the UK today.”

What are the main findings of the ‘Burnout Report’?

1. Extreme Stress is Rampant

More broadly, nine in ten adults have reported feeling extreme stress in the past year, potentially hinting that these problems could reveal themselves in other ways outside of employees taking time off. This can manifest through decreased productivity and an increased chance of workplace conflict, among other signs that may not be as prevalent.

2. One in Five Workers Hit Burning Point

As mentioned earlier, one in five adults in the UK has needed to take time away from work, firmly entrenching the workplace as a part of this ongoing trend.

The Health and Safety Executive reported that each person suffering from work-related ill-health connected to stress, depression or anxiety had to take 20 days away from work on average. Unfortunately, this could possibly put them in a more difficult situation if they are already feeling overworked and their employers have no measures in place to support them.

3. ‘Nearly Half of Employers Are Ill-Equipped for Addressing Chronic Stress and Burnout’

Among UK workers, 49% report that their organisation does not have any such plans in the workplace. An astonishing figure that demands definitive action from employers to implement systems to alleviate and manage stress in the workplace.

This is especially concerning as under Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, employers have a general duty of care to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of all their employees, and this includes employees' mental health.

Aside from the legal concerns that arise from neglecting workplace mental health, employers have a moral obligation to foster a supportive and non-toxic work environment that allows employees to voice any difficulties they may be having due to their work.

What are the consequences of extreme stress in the workplace?

The UK is contending with a tsunami of work absences and that has a negative impact on individuals, employers, and the taxpayer.

The personal impact on an individual can be devastating to all aspects of their lives. It can cause tiredness as well as a feeling of defeat and aloneness in the world. Individuals might have a cynical outlook which can impact their productivity and further exacerbate any workload worries they may be having. Overall, they are likely to experience a decrease in their motivation to work and this stress could bleed into their lives outside of work, creating difficulties with their loved ones.

Consequences for employers can also be very negative. An estimated 35.2 million working days were lost in 2022/23 due to self-reported work-related ill health or injury. This has a detrimental impact on company profits and could also damage their reputation in the industry if work is delayed due to absences. The employer might also garner a reputation for not looking after their employee's mental health, which can make hiring new staff members difficult.

How can these areas of concern be addressed?

Educating employers and employees is the first step to building a better narrative around mental health in the workplace. Each person in an organisation should understand their role in building a good culture that elevates others. This is why we would strongly recommend that employers invest in the right training that teaches all staff members about how they can support others with their mental health whilst also being self-aware of their own.

We have pioneered safety training that incorporates the profound interplay between mental health and workplace well-being, in our Astutis Mental Health and Workplace Safety course. Developed in partnership with Professor Tim Marsh, the course features expert guidance on understanding your own mental health and understanding how to successfully help those in need of support.

If you’re ready to promote the right kind of culture around mental well-being in your organisation, learn more about the course below.

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