UK workers are running on empty

22nd May by Lee Robertson

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New data and economic modelling published by AXA UK and the Centre for Business and Economic Research (Cebr) has revealed that work-related stress and burnout is costing the UK economy £28bn a year and has resulted in around 23 million sick days.

AXA’s Mind Health Study (MHS), which features a special workplace report that has been put together in partnership with Make a Difference Media, shows that a concerning gap is emerging where the UK’s level of mind health is lower than other countries surveyed and those disproportionately affected are young adults, women, minority groups and line managers.

The report revealed a growing gap in mind health with as many as one in five UK employees suffering with their mental health. A range of challenges was uncovered in the study including discrimination, harassment and unwanted attention because of gender. Negative body image, tech additional, unequal responsibilities and societal expectations were also discovered to be contributing to poor mind health.

It highlights that employers, especially line managers, need to be more aware of young people’s anxieties, provide positive reassurance and work collaboratively to achieve good outcomes at work. Mentoring, online tools and apps and other individualised approaches such as coaching have been suggested; while findings also show the importance of employers demonstrating values that align with those of young people, as this can help them feel valued and supported in the workplace.

It identified that employees who feel they belong, thanks to a supportive environment, are 2.5 times less likely to say they plan to leave that workplace in the next year. However, the study warns that managers need to be supported in order to support others. The MHS shows that working people who manage others are more likely to be at least mildly stressed, depressed and/or anxious than non-managers.

It recommends that companies better equip managers and adjust their workloads to help cope with the expectations placed on them. Managers play a crucial role in employee wellbeing: studies show the way they interact with staff, both in and outside of the workplace, has a profound effect on mental health – and management behaviour has often been cited as a major contributory cause of work-related stress.

The good news is that progress has been made with the MHS finding that there has been a 10% increase in employees citing good mental health support from their workplace compared to 2022. What is also clear is that mental health support makes a big difference and those with it at work are twice as likely to be happy and almost three and a half times more likely to be flourishing. It also identified that those who are flourishing are less likely to resign than those who are struggling with their mental health.

Flourishing represents the pinnacle of good mind health and a level of mental health skills needed to be present with self-acceptance being the most important. Emotional intelligence, self-confidence, resilience and purpose are all skills listed in determining how well someone is flourishing at work. Belonging and purpose matter and the likelihood for an individual to flourish is higher when they have a strong skill fit with control of their workload and feel their company is supporting their personal development.