Employees are keeping silent about their mental health conditions at work during the global pandemic, despite the fact that work has been a contributing factor for many, new research from Bupa and Business in the Community (BITC) has found.
The study of 3,614 employees by Business in the Community in partnership with Bupa and the BITC Wellbeing Leadership Team found that just 14% of workers disclosed to their manager that they were suffering from a mental health issue. And a third (30%) of people who have experienced work-related mental ill-health have told no one, with men significantly more likely to keep their condition a secret (35%) compared with women (26%).
Even during a global pandemic, work-related pressure was identified as the most common cause of mental health issues (51%), while another 35% put symptoms down to workload, long hours, and not taking enough leave. A third (31%) of participants said that their mental ill-health was caused by not being supported in their role, potentially an indication of their reluctance to share their circumstances.
As part of its response to the mental health issues caused by the pandemic, Bupa is now expanding access to SilverCloud for its corporate insurance customers* at no extra charge via Bupa Touch, its online customer portal. SilverCloud is a mental and behavioural health platform that supports employees in developing resilience and wellbeing strategies, helping prevent everyday mental stresses and strains from developing into more serious issues. Built on years of clinical research, the platform has developed over 30 evidence-based mental health programmes and is accredited by NICE and the NHS, amongst other leading bodies. Programmes available via Bupa Touch include support for stress, sleep, resilience, money worries, alcohol, positive body image and COVID-19.
Whilst Bupa and SilverCloud have previously partnered to offer selected mental health services,** this is the first time that the healthcare company is offering SilverCloud to its corporate health insurance customers* at no extra charge.
Mark Allan, Commercial Director at Bupa UK Insurance said: “Although mental health has come to the fore during the global pandemic, and addressing these issues is a priority for many businesses, the research shows that a good number of employees feel uncomfortable turning to their manager for help. Whilst businesses around the country are focused on creating cultures that are open about mental health it can be difficult for workers, especially when working remotely, to have these kinds of complex conversations. SilverCloud offers a digital route for these employees to seek mental health support and take further action, if needed.”
Encouragingly, although 41% of workers experienced work-related mental health symptoms in the last year, almost two thirds believe that their employer has recognised the challenges posed by COVID-19. Half (50%) feel that their organisation has good mental health support, so whilst COVID-19 has increased the amount of mental health issues experienced on the whole, only 9% of respondents felt that a lack of support during COVID-19 had caused mental health issues related to work.
Mark added: “Support from your manager can act as a lynchpin in these times and we recognise the need for digital support for businesses. Bupa offers a number of mental health services within our Bupa from Home offering including Direct Access, which gives health insurance customers fast access to mental health specialists, usually without needing to see a GP first. We have also launched our new Family Mental HealthLine for customers, to help parents and children get the support they need.
“And to ensure mental health resources are accessible to everyone, we have also enhanced our free Mental Health Hub. This includes practical resources and advice from resident mental health experts for those looking for guidance and support on topics spanning from children’s and family mental health to sleep disorders. And for those wanting to speak with a GP, we offer access to video GP appointments through a partnership with Babylon.”
In line with these findings BITC and Bupa are encouraging organisations to continue to prioritise employee wellbeing as workers face more uncertainty as the pandemic continues.
The Mental Health at Work Commitment is a set of actions that any organisation can follow to improve and support the mental health of their people:
- Prioritise mental health in the workplace by developing and delivering a systematic programme of activity
- Proactively ensure work design and organisation culture drive positive mental health outcomes
- Promote an open culture around mental health
- Increase organisational awareness and confidence in mental health with training, education, and resources for managers and individuals
- Provide mental health tools and support
- Increase transparency and accountability through internal and external reporting
Louise Aston, Wellbeing Director at Business in the Community, said:
“Businesses need to be aware that excessive workplace pressure and workload may be causing mental health issues. When we are at work, we don’t expect to be physically injured and nor should our mental health be harmed. This inequality needs to be addressed by employers protecting mental health and safety and enhancing the wellbeing of everyone through better ways of working. Now is the time to prioritise wellbeing for all by enshrining ways of working that tackle the systemic root causes of poor mental health, create cultures of trust and belonging, where everyone feels safe to speak up and be actively listened to.
Lloyd Humphreys, Head of Europe at SilverCloud Health added:
“It has been well known, even before the pandemic, that mental health and wellbeing is one of the most important areas to address for employers. With the continuing impact of COVID it has now become a critical need. As such, we are delighted to support Bupa expand access to the SilverCloud platform to get evidence-based mental health and wellbeing support into as many hands as possible.”