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We need to talk about mental health in the workplace

28 Feb 2017

Woman discussing mental health with other employeesA major report produced by the IoD revealed that three-quarters of businesses don’t have a mental health policy

In 2015, a survey was conducted by YouGov on behalf of the IoD to find out how British businesses were addressing the issue of mental health at work.

In total 1,150 employees as well 586 senior decision makers responded and the results revealed that 74 per cent of employees say they would prefer to discuss mental health concerns with someone outside of work.

Furthermore, just seven per cent of employers have discussed mental health issues with their staff and three-quarters of businesses don’t have a mental health policy in place, according to a major new survey by the Institute of Directors.

The findings were revealed on national Time to Talk day, which aimed to encourage people to have a five-minute conversation about mental health as part of the ongoing campaign to break the silence that often surrounds the topic.

The IoD/YouGov survey shed a light on how bosses and employees consider mental health, and highlighted the difficulty that SMEs in particular have when it came to understanding and talking about the issue.

The findings also revealed that the number of companies who put in place mental health programmes or have a company-wide policy on mental health was strikingly low, at just 23 per cent.

This was despite overwhelming support from both employers and staff for businesses to take a leading role in addressing mental health at work.

More than eighty per cent (82 per cent) of companies surveyed felt they should adapt their workplace and working practices to promote mental wellbeing, and 68 per cent of employees agreed it was a business’s responsibility to make provisions for their staff’s mental health issues and mental wellbeing.

Commenting on the survey, Simon Walker, then director general of the IoD, said:

“There may come a time when people are as comfortable talking about their mental health as they are talking about going to the dentist, but we’re not there yet.

“Huge progress has been made, but society still has a long way to go in increasing awareness and understanding of mental health issues. Businesses have an enormous role to play in creating an environment where such issues can be discussed openly, effectively and safely.”

Sue Baker, director of Time to Change, the mental health anti-stigma programme run by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, said:

“Whilst we’ve witnessed public attitudes around mental health start to change, these findings show how much more needs to be done in the workplace. 

“There isn’t a lack of help and support available to employers, but we need to work together to bridge this gap.”

Mental health in the workplace

The IoD is committed to raising awareness of mental health issues in the workplace, with a particular focus on opening up the conversation for small and medium-sized businesses. We have created a hub packed full of helpful advice, best practice and useful resources, as well as shared experiences from business leaders.

Visit our mental health in the workplace hub

Get involved in the conversation  or use the hashtag

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