Employees struggle to raise mental health issues with employers despite pandemic sparking spike in wellbeing concerns

Employees struggle to raise mental health issues with employers despite pandemic sparking spike in wellbeing concerns

  • Two-thirds of UK adults (66%) would not feel comfortable raising a mental health or emotional wellbeing issue with their employer
  • A third of UK adults are offered no physical and emotional wellbeing by their employer
  • Employees are encouraged to ‘find5 with 5’ to fight loneliness this mental health awareness week

A new survey of 8,000 UK adults found that two-thirds of respondents (66%) would not feel comfortable raising a mental or emotional wellbeing issue with their employer, and a third would not is offered no physical or emotional support while working.

This is of particular concern given that Nuffield Health 2022,’Healthier Nations Index‘, also revealed that one in three people say their mental health has deteriorated in the last year. This highlights both a need and an opportunity to provide people with the right mental and emotional wellbeing support in UK workplaces.

These findings are particularly relevant during this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, which focuses on loneliness. Loneliness is the difficult emotion we experience when our need for meaningful social contact and relationships is not met. Loneliness is on the rise, with nthe first half of the UK population say they feel lonely on time.

Gosia Bowling, National Emotional Wellness Lead at Nuffield Health commented :

“It is worrying that the majority of UK employees have to deal with mental or emotional wellbeing issues in the workplace on their own. The pandemic has affected the mental health of many employees, so it’s more important than ever that employers find ways to create inclusive and connected work environments where people feel supported. Not only will this help with productivity, but it will also increase happiness levels.

“As we also move to more hybrid and remote work models, it’s critical that employers also find ways to keep their employees connected, which will help combat feelings of loneliness.”

Gosia offers advice on how employers can play their part in creating a connected and inclusive workplace:

  1. Notice the signs of loneliness

With two-thirds of employees unwilling to discuss mental health issues with their employer, it’s important that companies are equipped to recognize the signs of loneliness in others.

The emotional toll of loneliness can be seen in a number of ways, including a decline in appearance and hygiene, a reduction in social interactions in the office, or even in the individual’s performance and job performance. Among teleworkers, this can manifest itself through videoconferences or calls. Are they less talkative? Is their voice low or cracking?

Alternatively, does the person seem to crave conversation and contact, or are they too talkative? Behavioral changes can provide guidance as well as an opening to ask employees about their well-being.

In just five minutes, attentive employers can reach out to employees showing signs of loneliness or distress and contact them. It could be as simple as asking “how are you?” or suggest more regular appointments to catch up on work.

  1. “Find 5 with 5”

Last week, Nuffield Health launched the ‘Find Time for Your Mind’ campaign, calling on people to #find5 and spend just five extra minutes a day exercising and focusing on their mental wellbeing. . This extra time would increase the average 40 minutes in the survey to the NHS guideline of 75 minutes per week, putting people on the path to mental and physical well-being.

This Mental Health Awareness Week, Nuffield Health is expanding its ‘find 5’ campaign to encourage individuals to ‘find 5 with 5’ – spending their five minutes dedicated to wellbeing with five others to encourage establishment connections with others, creating a more inclusive environment in the workplace.

This could include appointing someone to lead five minutes of group guided breathing, sharing personal “victories” each day on an instant messaging platform, or even hosting mini “led” fitness circuits. by an instructor” each week.

Employers can play a huge role in creating an environment where employees feel a sense of connection and belonging by promoting campaigns that promote connectedness and teamwork.

  1. Communication is key

For those experiencing feelings of loneliness, group video calls and water cooler chats aren’t the answer. Individuals need to feel that they are engaged in a meaningful conversation.

Leaders should strive to spend at least five minutes with employees each week, practicing “active listening” – a skill that requires genuine understanding and retention of what is being said and a thoughtful response.

This means not speaking above individuals or questioning what they say. Instead, take a seat in the back, listen carefully to what is being said, and show understanding by repeating key phrases or asking relevant questions to demonstrate your understanding.

Employers can also consider providing emotional literacy training to their staff – equipping them with the skills to recognize signs of distress in others and themselves and the confidence to approach them. This way, they can nurture a workforce that can recognize and tackle loneliness.

At Nuffield Health, 98% of those who have taken the emotional literacy training found it beneficial and would recommend it to a colleague.

  1. Targeting with formal support

While meaningful social interaction plays a key role in reducing loneliness, formal wellness support can also be invaluable. This may include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and employee assistance programs (EAPs) that provide direct and confidential access to a mental health expert.

It only takes five minutes to direct employees to the support on offer, along with advice and encouragement on how to access the help available. This can be done by email to employees, in an office, or in a virtual “wellness centre”.

Not only do these services alleviate feelings of loneliness by supporting individuals, but they can also help employees understand, interpret and deal with feelings of loneliness, for example by breaking unnecessary thought patterns.

  1. Get in shape

It is important to remember that mental and physical health are intrinsically linked. The chemicals our bodies release when we are stressed, anxious, and depressed can impact our physical health, causing nausea, stomach aches, and headaches. And injuries, illnesses and disabilities can also impact our mood and outlook.

Employers have a key role to play in helping employees stay fit and physically active. In just five minutes, business leaders can arrange or raise awareness of physical health exams available in the office to uncover any underlying issues in employees.

Encouraging employees to #find5 throughout the workday could also be as simple as promoting regular exercise at morning meetings or creating resources to distribute around the office or via email. Over a week, that’s 35 minutes, bringing the average exercise time from 40 minutes in the UK to the 75 minutes recommended by the NHS.

  1. No “one size fits all”

Finally, it is important to remember that no single intervention works for everyone. The key to sustaining the workforce is flexibility.

Employers should be flexible in letting staff choose five minutes of self-care each day, whether it’s just stretching at their desk, taking a five-minute brisk walk between meetings, or finding five minutes to do a short guided meditation or breathing exercises.

Likewise, flexibility can mean allowing employees to stagger start and finish times or take longer lunches and catch up on work later in the day. This can lead to employees meeting friends for coffee or spending more time with family.

Employers should also take five minutes with each employee to discuss their concerns and understand their healthiest work habits. This way, they can think about how to provide flexible work opportunities that respond to the individual and allow everyone to thrive and overcome feelings of loneliness.

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