Workplace Absenteeism Rising Due To Lack Of Mental Health Support

Mental health-related workplace absenteeism cost UK businesses £14 billion last year and the Covid pandemic was a significant contributing factor, new research shows.

According to Westfield Health’s Coping with Covid report, mental health-related workplace absenteeism costs rose by £1.3 billion during 2020. This represents an increase of 10% over 2019. Travel restrictions, furlough, working from home and pay cuts were all indicated as having brought radical changes for millions of UK employees.

The report, which is based on the views of more than 1,600 staff and employers, also revealed a 10% increase in workplace absence due to mental health, with people struggling to adapt to new ways of working cited as one of the main causes.

One of the report’s more positive revelations is that UK businesses said they had become more committed to investing in the wellbeing of their people. Indeed, around 81% of businesses said they now have a renewed focus on the mental and physical health of employees.

Mental health issues stagnating productivity

The report reveals that a third of employees say they have poor mental health at their organisation and that there is a gap between employee and more senior manager wellbeing. This is highlighted by the fact employees report significantly lower levels of morale and productivity compared to those in leadership positions.

Furthermore, just over a third (36%) of employees said their mental health impacts their performance at work on a weekly basis. Three quarters (76%) of employees also said the pandemic has caused their productivity to stagnate, as the added pressure takes its toll on their mental health. As a result, almost a quarter (24%) of employees are looking for extra wellbeing support from their employers going forward.

On average, employees took 3.19 days off for mental health-related issues in 2020, up from 2.90 days in 2019.

More support needed

The Westfield Health report echoes what my colleague Tom Pullinger wrote about recently. In his post - Employees Want Better Mental Health Support At Home - Tom outlined how despite employees needing greater levels of support, many employers are failing to come up adequate assistance or programs to embrace this changing workplace culture and it is having a considerable impact on the mental health of the nation.

Indeed, as Tom pointed out, three in five employees want their employers to spend more on supporting mental and physical wellbeing, but one in two employers are failing to adequately address issues of staff wellbeing.

According to the Westfield report, however, there has been a 34% increase in average wellbeing spend by businesses per head, highlighting how wellbeing is moving up the agenda.

Speaking about the report, Dave Capper, CEO at Westfield Health, said: “The findings from our research paint a worrying picture for workplace productivity, with the economic impact of mental health clearly deepening.

“However, the way businesses have and are responding to this challenge gives us hope, as when we come out the other side of this pandemic, there will be a long-term commitment to support employees’ mental and physical wellbeing.”

Addressing Workplace Absenteeism Through Employee Benefits

Is employee health and wellbeing at the top of your organisation’s agenda? Employees are being very clear on what they want. Failure to at least acknowledge their concerns could lead to unwanted absenteeism and staff turnover. We can help.

Author: Gill Adams - Head of SME Growth