Punter Southall Health & Protection points out that more employers are starting to address mental health issues within their wellbeing agenda.
However in a recent survey the consultants found that few (less than 10 per cent) of these initiatives were being driven from board level.
But Punter Southall head of corporate healthcare consulting, Cheryl Brennan says that chief executives need to be more supportive, to ensure these wellbeing programmes are effective.
This would also create “a culture of openness across the company to ensure mental health isn’t a taboo subject”, she says.
Their survey found that while 45 per cent of organisations now have a well-defined wellbeing strategy in place. This is up from less than 30 per cent two years ago.
But despite this, less than 16 per cent of employers have a defined mental health strategy.
Recent research from Mind shows that one in four adults live with a diagnosable mental condition. Surveys from two health insurers, ahead of World Mental Health Day, show the impact this can have on the workplace.
Unum’s research found almost three out of four employees (72 per cent) say they feel “nervous, tense or edgy at work”. While almost one in two (48 per cent) report feeling “tired or worn out” at least once a week.
Meanwhile a survey from Cigna Europe shows that 80 per cent of those surveyed are suffering from stress, with a quarter of those reporting “unmanageable levels” of work-related stress.
The survey found work and finances are the most common stress triggers. Comparable surveys taken in other countries found that levels of stress among UK workers were significantly higher than those in France, Germany and Spain.
Despite calls for workplace wellbeing solutions, this Cigna survey also shows that the UK is falling behind other countries in the development of these programmes.
Less than one in ten (9 per cent) of employees say they have access and use a workplace wellbeing programme.
The research says almost one in three (29 per cent) employees rate stress management as the second most desired healthcare benefit in the UK, and half would like flexible leave – despite only 17 per cent of businesses offering this.
Unum says early intervention can be key to addressing these problems and supporting mental health. Unum’s HR director Liz Walker says: “In our experience, if an employee is struggling to cope, early and focused intervention can help prevent a short-term concern manifesting into a more serious illness.
“Employers and line managers should ensure they are aware of signs that an employee maybe under stress, or suffering from mental ill health.
“Even simple steps such as reducing a workload, or ensuring the employee is aware of resources such as employee assistance programmes, can have a big impact.”
Cigna Europe chief executive Phil Austin adds: “From our research we can see that the majority of British workers feel stressed, yet only one in four have spoken to a medical professional.
“This is concerning and highlights the important role and duty of care employers have to play in supporting their staff to address this issue.”
He adds: “Having the right support in place and early intervention can have significant positive impact on a prognosis, reduce the cost of treatment and help employees to return to work quickly.”
But there was more encouraging news from Personal Group. It says it has seen an increase in the number of men using employee assistance programmes.
It found 54 per cent of employees accessing their EAP were male, with 15 per cent of these calls after 6pm in the evening.
This follows data published earlier this month from Personal Group and Health Assured, which showed that over the past year, the number of calls made to EAPs about mental health issues had increased by 31 per cent.
The data shows that mental health issues have overtaken all other areas of traditional concern for employees, including: work stress, relationships, and general health issues.
This increase outpaces that of all other advice calls, with mental health support calls in the same period rising from 23 per cent of all calls in 2017, to 36 per cent of calls in 2018.
Personal Group chief executive Mark Scanlon says: “More and more employers are waking up to the fact that more must be done to improve their employees’ wellbeing. Mental Health in the workplace is no longer a taboo subject and only by providing resources and open conversation can we truly start to provide the support our employees need.”