Stress taboo is the elephant in the room in many workplaces

Stress taboo is the elephant in the room in many workplaces

Attitudes towards mental ill health are supposed to be more enlightened these days, but the fact that a large supermarket chain would sanction the sale of a “mental patient” Halloween outfit shows that in business, there is some way to go. The mental health charity Mind, which received an apology and a donation from Asda following the withdrawal of the offending outfit, has published new statistics today which reveals 42 per cent of employees believe that in their workplace, stress and mental ill health is regarded as a sign of weakness or that you can’t cope. 45 per cent of workers said that staff are expected to cope without mentioning stress at work and a third (31%) would not be able to talk openly to their line manager if they felt stressed.

Mind has also found a huge difference in the perceptions of managers and other staff about how mental health is addressed in the workplace. Only 22 per cent of workers felt that their boss takes active steps to help them manage stress. Paradoxically, many managers seem to think that they are doing enough to support staff with over two thirds (68 per cent) saying that they would find ways of helping staff who were stressed or experiencing a mental health problem.

Other key findings from Mind’s survey of over 2,000 workers include:

  • 36 per cent believe that looking after staff mental wellbeing is an organisational priority.
  • Only a third (32%) think time off for stress is treated as seriously as time off for physical illness.
  • Nearly half (42%) believe that time off for stress is seen as an ‘excuse’ for something else.

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said: “These figures show that stress remains the elephant in the room in many workplaces. It also highlights the worrying disparity between how managers and other members of staff view their organisation’s approach to mental wellbeing. It is vital that managers are equipped with the tools they need to be able to confidently and effectively support their staff, whether they are experiencing stress or mental health problems as a result of work or other factors.

“There is a real danger that companies are neglecting workplace mental health, with huge implications for staff wellbeing; not to mention productivity, motivation and sickness absence. Employers depend on their staff and there are lots of small, inexpensive measures they can put in place to improve wellbeing and make a huge difference to all staff.”

Mind is inviting managers and HR professionals to sign up to their free webinars this autumn at The charity also offers numerous resources aimed at employers which provide valuable information on creating mentally healthy workplaces and supporting employees who are experiencing stress and/or mental health problems.