5.8 million UK workers have gone into work when feeling mentally unwell

New research shows

Almost a fifth of respondents (18 per cent) said they’ve gone into work when feeling mentally unwell, according to new research from Canada Life Group Insurance. This is equivalent to 5.8 million UK workers, and suggests a significant stigma still persists around the issue of mental health in the workplace.

A fifth (19 per cent) say they’d be more likely to go into work if feeling mentally unwell than they would if feeling physically unwell, with mental health issues not deemed as severe as physical ones by a significant minority. Just 20 per cent report they would take time off if they were suffering from a stress-related illness.

Many employees are worried about how their boss and colleagues would react to time off for mental health. Canada Life’s research found one in five (20 per cent) would be embarrassed to say they were off with a mental health problem, while more than one in ten (13 per cent) would be worried about their future job prospects if they took time off for this. 12 per cent fear their boss and/or colleagues would no longer take them seriously, and the same proportion say their boss and/or colleagues’ understanding of mental health issues is poorer than of physical ones.

Improving the experience of those with mental health issues in the workplace

The research also provides insight into how employers can tackle the stigma of taking time off from the workplace for mental health issues. When asked how employers could make people with mental and physical health issues feel more comfortable taking time off, 37 per cent of workers say the opportunity to work flexibly would help them.

A third (34 per cent) of employees say promoting a more positive attitude to health and wellbeing would be beneficial, and a quarter (26 per cent) identified less pressure to be ‘always on’ and working. This suggests that a change in workplace culture would help to reduce presenteeism. 

Other measures employees say would help them feel more comfortable taking time off when they need it to recuperate include workplace support, such as Employee Assistance Programmes (22 per cent) or back to work rehabilitation for longer term conditions (18 per cent).

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