People need to feel comfortable about being themselves at work

feeling comfortable at workOver a quarter of people (28 percent) in the workplace suffer bullying and/or discrimination on issues such as gender, age or sexual orientation, according to a new study. The Workplace Wellbeing Census, conducted by leading healthcare provider Bupa, found that such actions are the most harmful factors influencing workplace wellbeing at work. Women in the workplace face significant challenges with over a third (34 percent) experiencing bullying or discrimination, compared to 22 per cent of men. Women are also more than four times as likely to suffer negatively from workplace gender discrimination than men (13 percent vs 3 percent).

The study looks at a range of factors and employer actions affecting wellbeing, consulting over 4,000 employees across 12 key industries. It shows that allowing employees to be themselves without fear of bullying or discrimination is crucial in enabling people to thrive at work.

For employees who have suffered a negative impact on their wellbeing from bullying or discrimination at work in the last three years, bullying specifically is by far the most common cause affecting 44 per cent of people, making it the single biggest workplace wellbeing issue reported for UK employers. But many employees feel they cannot talk to their manager about their wellbeing issues for fear of being judged (48 percent), often choosing to handle issues on their own (50 percent). More than two fifths (42 percent) would not feel comfortable talking to management and a similar proportion (43 percent) currently don’t have access to wellbeing support services at work.

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However, it seems that being able to speak out on bullying or discrimination is important, with the data showing a strong correlation between workplace happiness and comfort in talking to managers about problems. Half (51 percent) of employees who have discussed a wellbeing issue with their manager – work-related or not – reported it was a positive experience.

Overall, almost one in four (23 percent) employees in the UK is struggling with poor wellbeing in a working week – with almost three quarters citing workplace and mental health issues as key factors (72 percent each).

Those working in Transportation & Distribution report the highest proportion of poor wellbeing (31 percent), while employees working in Education in the private sector seem to have a better wellbeing compared to other industries (84 percent).

Higher salaries (57 percent), better recognition for work (35 percent) and more manageable workloads (27 percent) are seen as ways in which workplace wellbeing can be improved. While colleagues (50 percent) and encouraging an inclusive work culture (25 percent) are other key factors found to have a positive impact on wellbeing in the last 12 months.

David Hynam, Bupa Global & UK CEO, said: “Creating a positive working environment where employees are comfortable to bring their whole self to work, and being able to speak up if they experience any problems, is absolutely key to enabling your people to thrive in the workplace. I believe it’s particularly important for businesses to have a clear stance on inclusion. Having a code of conduct that clearly sets out that all colleagues are treated equally, regardless of gender, age, race, sexual orientation or religion is one way to help everyone feel comfortable within the business and that discrimination and bullying has absolutely no place within the organisation.”

Image: Bupa