Businesses urged to adapt as 1 in 3 Scottish employees suffered from mental health issues last year


NEW DATA has revealed that one in three Scottish employees suffer from declining mental health highlighting work pressures as a key factor. Adding to the problem, Scotland has the highest level of presenteeism in the UK, according to a nationwide report on workforce health. 

The report surveyed 1,000 employees in Scotland and how they are affected by their working environment, the impacts on their overall health, and what health support employees want from their employers.

Data obtained by the UK employee health, wellbeing, and habits survey has revealed that more than a quarter of Scotland’s employees have worked through poor mental health in the last year.

The report revealed that Scotland has the highest level of presenteeism in the UK –twice the number of any other region – due to mounting work pressures. 

At some point over the last 12 months, 31% of employees in the region have struggled with their mental health – double the number experiencing physical health issues. However, for both physical and mental health, a decline in health was three times more common than an improvement. 

The report was conducted to discover how workers in Scotland are affected by their working environment, the impacts on their overall health and what health support employees want from their employers. Over 1,000 employees were surveyed.

What do employees want from companies?

Companies in Scotland have the most to gain from supporting employees’ physical and mental health. Over half (56%) of workers said they would feel more productive at work if their employer provided support with their health – the highest proportion of any region.

Two in five (40%) employees also stated they would be more engaged within their role if this support was in place. 

To alleviate mental health issues, most employees in Scotland (44%) identified training for managers as a way to prevent stressful working environments. A third (33%) wanted stress management skills training for workers.

In all, 85% of employees thought their company could do more to improve the health, wellbeing and habits of its workers.

What, if anything, would you like to see from your company to improve the health, wellbeing, and habits of its employees?
Training for managers to support their workers’ mental health by preventing stressful work environments32.87%
Do more to promote the use of sick leave when an employee is struggling with physical or mental health32.67%
Improving food options for lunch and snacking fruit to support healthy eating21.68%
Training to build skills in stress management24.58%
Take measures to avoid employees sitting for long periods of time19.08%
‘Health positive’ versions of socials and Christmas parties16.38%
Promote cycle to work and other active initiatives11.89%
I wouldn’t like to see anything from my company to improve this15.28%
Smoking cessation support for those that need it7.09%
A ‘no alcohol’ culture in the company7.49%

Richard Holmes, director of wellbeing at Westfield Health, commented: 

“Burnout is a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. Pressure at work is usually the main culprit and when budgets are tight and teams are small, people often find themselves with multiple roles and heavy workloads, piling on the stress.

“Policies like turning off email servers outside of working hours helps ring-fence valuable recovery time. Mental health first aid training can also help managers spot the signs or triggers and put preventions in place.”

Claire Brown, qualified life and career coach, said:

“Companies should encourage employees to contribute to the organisation of tasks, duty and priorities. And employees at every possible level should be invited to participate in devising an in-house stress management policy. 

“Employees must also be encouraged to prioritise their health & wellbeing above productivity by taking regular breaks from the screen and getting fresh air, where possible. Providing alternative and innovative ways for connection and communication between team members is also really valuable.

“By adopting a flexible attitude and approach to how and when work is completed, companies can alleviate some of the pressure and mental strain. As always, communication is key. It’s important for employers to be fair and realistic about what is possible and provide practical support to help team members manage their workloads.”

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