Managing mental health | UK workplaces

There has never been greater awareness of the intrinsic link between employee mental wellbeing and business productivity across the UK workforce than there is today. 

Equally, there has been an evolution in our collective expectation of what employers should do to support the mental health of their workers.

Beyond being the ethical thing to do, an employer who actively cares for the emotional, physical and social wellbeing of their workers can also expect tangible business benefits. Indeed, last year’s research into the impact of mental health at work by Paul Farmer and Dennis Stevenson in their ‘Thriving at Work’ report proved that a failure to appropriately support employees could cost businesses as much as £42 billion per year, with a cost to the entire economy amounting to £99 billion in lost output.


of workers would trust their manager with a mental health concern
have considered leaving their current job due to stress
of employees said that work has impacted their mental health at some point in their career
of workers would discuss a mental health concern with a colleague
of UK workers have felt stress at work
of workers feel less productive when stressed at work
of UK workers have experienced workrelated stress whilst at home
of UK workers say their workplace supports mental wellbeing

Why we have explored this...

We felt compelled to measure how important mental health support at work is to UK employees. Intending to understand how important trust is in discussing their mental health. Especially, with more senior staff and indeed how this trust, or lack thereof, fed into stress, worry and anxiety in their professional and personal lives. Our results showed that 80% of UK workers have felt stress at work.And more than half (54%) saying that this stress also impacted their home life. The very fact that the vast majority of respondents identified stress as a factor in their working lives should be enough to convince business leaders that they must do more

By launching our first ever Managing Mental Health report, we hope to build on the insights provided by existing research. Aiming to prove that, improving the UK’s workplace support for mental wellbeing is vital if we want to boost the nation’s productivity. We provide employers and employees alike with useful insights, into how their organisations could better support workplace mental health.

Mental health: the national picture

Million days lost to mental health related issues
billion pounds is what poor mental health could be costing the UK
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of workers in the UK say that feeling stressed is due to heavy workloads

The last few years have seen unprecedented attention focussed on how organisations should be responsible for supporting the mental health of their employees. According to the Health & Safety Executive, in 2016/17 12.5 million days were lost to stress and other mental health issues, a figure compounded by the Stevenson & Farmer Thriving at Work report. It suggests that poor mental health could be costing the UK economy more than £99 billion per year.

Causes of stress

Because stress is endemic across the UK workforce, it’s important for employers to understand which factors contribute most to their workers feeling this way. Our survey, found that the greatest pressure felt by workers was workload. 40% claim that having too much on their agenda resulted in stress. The survey also revealed that a significant proportion of the labour market would feel that their mental health would be better supported at work if their organisation were to provide more training for line managers.

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Poor management
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Challenging targets
of workers would rather have a comprehensive healthcare package than a 3% pay rise
of employees would rather have a trustworthy manager than a 3% pay rise
20% would rather have support for their mental health at work than a 3% pay rise
of workers have considered leaving their current job due to stress.

Gender headlines

Breaking down the survey results by gender revealed some interesting trends in how men and women explore their mental health. Men are less likely to say they felt stressed, less likely to take this stress home and also less likely to feel like they could talk to their colleagues about their mental health. In contrast, 83% of women admit to feeling stressed at work and wanting a more trustworthy manager than a 3% pay rise. 

The fact that men and women experience their mental health in different ways, means that employers must ensure flexibility in the workplace support that is available. A man suffering from stress may not want to talk to a colleague, but he might like to know that there’s anonymous support available.

Age headlines

Not only did our survey show clear trends in how gender can affect how workers think about their mental wellbeing, it also suggested that age is a factor determining how we as employees consider this aspect of our health. 84% of 18-24 year olds saying that they’d experienced stress at work. This trend was mimicked across other questions, where nearly half (48%) of this demographic admitted that stress had forced them to consider leaving their current job.

Percentage of workers who say they’ve experienced work-related stress while at home?

Yes 62%
Yes 56%
Yes 54%
Yes 53%
Yes 78%

Percentage of workers who say they’ve experienced stress at work 

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0 %
0 %
0 %
0 %

Sector headlines

The last twelve months have seen significant media attention falling on the strains faced by certain sectors and industries in the UK economy. Although several economic indicators have suggested that our economy is stabilising while unemployment falls, there are still major challenges facing the health and social care sectors. Indeed those trade-based businesses who have been waiting to hear how Britain’s decision to leave the EU will impact their operations. Accordingly, there are clear sectoral trends revealing which factions of the labour market are feeling the pressure.


Trusting sectors: 63% of workers in the charity sector would trust their line manager with their mental health concerns compared to just a third in the engineering and manufacturing sector.

Talkative cultures: Workers in the social care sector are most likely to say they would talk to a colleague about a mental health issue, 66% compared to just 36% in the media and internet sector.

Open cultures: Workers in the consulting and management sector are most likely to feel like their organisation encourages an open culture around mental health,compared to just 19% in sport, leisure and tourism

Highest/lowest employee turnover: 41% of social care workers have considered leaving their current job due to stress, whereas 77% of law enforcement workers have never considered quitting for this reason.

Top 5 sectors with most stressed employees

  • Social care 87%
  • Healthcare 87%
  • Recruitment & HR 86%
  • Charity 86%
  • Law 85%

Poor management as a stressor

  • Law enforcement 47%
  • Creative arts 41%
  • Hospitality 33%

3 Top Tips for Employers

  1. Train your line managers in how to support their team’s mental health The results of IIP’s Managing Mental Health report have proven that across sectors, ages and genders, employees all want managers that they can trust and managers who are capable of offering effective support for their mental health concerns.

  2. Listen to what employees want Each workplace in each industry will have specific demands and stresses acting on its employees. It’s vital that as a responsible employer, you recognise what these are and mitigate the impact. Listening to how employees feel about these stresses might be the most effective way of neutralising them.

  3. Everyone experiences mental health in different ways. This means that there is no one-size-fits-all approach for employees who are dealing with a mental health concern. Therefore, ensure that there is flexibility and the ability to tailor solutions in the support you offer.

3 Top Tips for Employees

  1. If you’re stressed, speak up It is vital that if you are suffering from a mental health concern, such as stress, you speak to a colleague or line manager as soon as you feel comfortable to do so. Employers can only support their people if they’re aware that they need additional support.
  2.   Be proactive If you know how and where your line manager and organisation could better support mental health, gather as much information as you can and present it to change-makers in your organisation. This will also ensure that your employer is given every opportunity to appropriately support your wellbeing. 
  3.  Unlike physical ailments, mental health conditions aren’t always obvious in those who are suffering. By encouraging open and honest relationships with colleagues, you’re bringing about the fundamental trust necessary to discuss issues like health and wellbeing.

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