Prince Harry made headlines again this week for saying that we should celebrate those who quit their job for the sake of their mental health. Meanwhile, a UK government agency has warned that workplaces in Britain need to undergo a “culture change” if they want to avoid a “health and safety crisis” among employees.
In the wake of the pandemic, there have been numerous studies investigating mental health and the workplace. A recent YouGov survey reported that 66 per cent of respondents attributed worsening mental health to their work life, and 28 per cent believed their employer wasn’t doing enough to safeguard their mental health. Another poll conducted by Employment Hero found that 48 per cent of employers surveyed said they didn’t have the budget to support their employees’ mental health, while 30 per cent said they don’t know how to support mental wellbeing.
It is well documented that happy employees perform better at work. Mentally healthy workers are more likely to think creatively and take an innovative approach to the tasks they are given. They are also able to cope better with stress and tend to take less sick days. According to Westfield Health, workplace absenteeism resulting from mental health issues cost the UK economy £14 billion in 2020.
But the true costs of an unhappy workforce are much more profound. Economists in the US have coined the term the "Great Resignation" to describe a recent spike in the number of people leaving their jobs. It believed that this trend is caused by increased burnout and job resignations spurred on by Covid.
Some measures are being taken to address the problem in the UK. The Government’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has launched a new campaign warning against what it calls a “health and safety crisis”. The regulator claims that mental health issues are now the main reason given for sick days, with more than 17 million working days lost last year due to stress, anxiety or depression. The initiative aims to help businesses recognise the signs of work-related stress, and is calling on workplaces to treat psychological and physical risks in the same way.
At least some businesses do seem open to the idea of changing the culture of their workplaces, according to a survey of 1,000 key decision makers conducted by digital education platform FutureLearn. It found that 21 per cent of business leaders say they are willing to re-evaluate their mental health policies. However, the same survey found that 12 per cent of employees who left their job cited mental health as one of the main reasons for leaving. So it is clear just how important mental health policies, such as counselling and having trained mental health first aiders, are for retaining employees.
“We’re just at the beginning of the mental health awakening,” said Prince Harry, speaking recently at a roundtable discussion as chief impact officer for BetterUp, a coaching platform for employers. He went on to say that believed that the new wave of job resignations wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“In fact,” he said, “it is a sign that with self-awareness comes the need for change. Many people around the world have been stuck in jobs that didn’t bring them joy, and now they’re putting their mental health and happiness first. This is something to be celebrated.”
If you would like help with your mental health, you can find your nearest source of support on this website.