Mental ill health in the workplace and the impact on business productivity

High levels of interest in employee wellbeing is often difficult to find on a Global basis, however here in the UK we have seen an heightened interest within organisations, and an increase in the number of employers with an employee wellbeing strategy or similar approach.  We have also seen a significant interest at national government level in wellbeing.

On a national scale, the impact of poor psychological wellbeing on the economy is significant.  Work related stress and other mental health conditions are estimated to be the biggest occupational health problem in the UK and the main causes of employee absence.  In 2014-2015 the total number of cases of work related stress, depression or anxiety was 440,000 cases – a rate of 1380 per 100,000 workers in the UK.

Nearly 3 in every 10 employees will have a mental health problem in any one year – the great majority of which will be anxiety and depressive disorders.

In fact, the recent and dramatic rise in the UK’s working hours would suggest this is likely to increase by 13% for the UK working population who work more than 49 hours per week.  The total number of working days lost due to this condition was 9.9 million days. This equated to an average of 23 days lost per case.

The number of working days lost to “stress, depression and anxiety” in the UK rose by 24 per cent between 2009 and 2013, while the number of days lost to “serious mental illness” roughly doubled.

 Analysts reckon that this sickness absence costs £8.4 billion each year, plus another £15.1 billion in reduced productivity. A further £2.4 billion is lost replacing staff that leave work because of mental ill-health. Overall, recent estimates put the cost to UK employers at £30 billion each year.

60-70% of people with common mental disorders are in work, it is crucial that those people are helped to keep working, to benefit their own health as well as the economy.

Research suggests that psychological wellbeing is directly related to performance.  Therefore, it is important to recognise the links between mental health issues and workplace productivity.  Mental health problems can have a direct impact on staff turnover, presenteeism, absenteeism and reputation.   As employers you play a vital role in observing changes in behaviour in your employees, you need to be able to recognise signs and symptoms and identify when support or help maybe needed.

Only 4 in 10 employees disclosing to their employer feelings or symptoms of stress or mental health difficulties -over 50% seek help outside of work. 

The City of London is a global financial hub which is host to a highly talented and productive workforce. However, mental ill health is very much an issue for City workers.  If you work in the City of London, you likely spend a healthy part of your day dealing with career-related stress. The hours, the responsibilities, the external pressures to deliver consistent compelling results – they all add up.   Often, employees are highly competitive, results-oriented people who do not want to appear weak to their peers. Over the past few years, we have also seen a string of reported deaths among City workers which have raised concerns about stress levels.  The City of London is beginning to realise the scale of the problem – employers need to encourage and create a space for employees to speak openly about any mental health worries.

It is also important that the City of London, does not ignore an issue that is now being acknowledged as a global concern.  The World Health Organisation met on the 13-14 April in Washington DC, to present to ministers of finance and development agencies the expected economic, health and social returns from investing in mental health services.  It is therefore, essential we recognise that mental disorders impose an enormous disease burden on societies throughout the world.   Depression alone affects 400 million people and is the single largest contributor to years lived with disability globally.  This of course is worsened by low levels of investment and effective treatment; therefore mental disorders have serious economic consequences.



Stacy Thomson

Mental Health Coaching combats and helps to prevent work related stress and other mental health conditions.  For more information regarding my Coaching services; including mental health training please contact me at stacy@impactcoaching or via my website