Fewer staff taking time off for mental health, poll finds



The propotion of workers taking time off because of poor mental health has fallen to 28% from 36% last year, a new poll has found.

Released ahead of World Mental Health Day tomorrow (10 October), the results of an Opinium poll reveal that 62% of UK workers have struggled with their mental health to some degree over the past year, but few were taking leave from work.

Feeling that their concerns were not “bad enough” to justify a day off was the main reason for their reluctance to take time away (35%), while 33% wanted to keep it to themselves and 25% felt it was not a valid reason to take time off.

Of those that did take time off work for their mental health, 57% felt guilty for doing so and 48% felt under pressure to return to work earlier than they should have done.

When they did return, 34% claimed they were left unsupported by their employer. However, 44% said their organisation had a clear process to welcome them back to work.

Sophie Holland, senior research executive at Opinium, said: “Over the past year we have seen employers step up and make changes in their organisations to improve mental wellbeing, and this is being noticed by employees too. However, the pandemic has added an extra level of stress that has affected people’s mental health in different ways.

“Working from home in particular has both negatively and positively impacted mental wellbeing for office workers, and this is something employers need to be mindful of in the months to come, as we could all be working from home a while longer yet. An individualistic approach is vital in supporting employee wellbeing in the months to come.”

One in three workers said working from home over the past six months has improved their mental wellbeing, while 26% felt it had had a negative impact.

Working from home has taken its toll on an increasing number of workers in the last two months, the survey found, with 43% struggling to build in time to go outside during the day (up from 35% in July), and 36% working longer hours than when they were in the workplace (up from 30%).

Almost one in four (38%) felt more isolated (up from 35%) and 28% said their stress levels had increased (up from 25%).

Opinium Research carried out online surveys of 1,008 UK workers from 24 June to 13 July, and 1,237 workers from 25 to 29 September.


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