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Workplace Stress Management - Business Express

Mental Health Week: 1 in 3 employees aren’t comfortable discussing issues at work


  • Over a third of employees don’t feel comfortable discussing mental health concerns with colleagues, employers or HR, a survey shows.
  • The data, from Just Eat for Business, encourages employers to foster a safe space to discuss mental health issues for Mental Health Week (9-15th May).
  • The findings also show that 1 in 5 employees wouldn’t know how to identify a colleague who was going through a stressful or difficult situation.
  • Robin Dunbar – Oxford Psychologist – and Occupational Psychologist Dr Anneli Gascoyne urge employers to promote honest employee conversations. 

Over a third of the nation’s employees don’t feel comfortable opening up about their mental health issues and concerns to anyone at work, a new survey shows. 

The findings come from Just Eat for Business for Mental Health Awareness Week – which takes place between the 9th and 15th May – to encourage employers to provide a safe space for employees to discuss mental health concerns, including stress, anxiety and burnout. 

Given that many of us will be impacted by mental health issues at some point in our careers, it’s concerning that a large portion feel unable to share these concerns in the workplace. 

In fact, the survey found that many of us are already struggling, as of those surveyed, two fifths (44%) admit often feeling burnout due to work – described as a ‘state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by excessive stress’ (World Health Organization).

It appears that working relationships play a significant role when it comes to approachability and fostering these mental health discussions, with 40% of workers around the UK admitting that they feel that they don’t know their colleagues very well. 

Given this lack of rapport, employees are highly unlikely to share their concerns with colleagues, and also may not feel comfortable going to HR or employers to ask for help. 

And with 70 million work days lost each year due to mental health problems in the UK – which costs approximately £2.4 billion annually – it’s crucial that employers look to prioritise promoting constructive conversations while at work, and improving mental health. 

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One way for businesses to do this is to provide regular opportunities for socialisation – such as catered lunches or after-work socials – which help to foster a friendlier work atmosphere, and in turn will help employees feel more comfortable with colleagues and employers alike.

For Robin Dunbar, Psychologist at the University of Oxford, it’s vital that organisations provide opportunities for team bonding in order to promote a healthy work/life balance and sustain our mental health while in the office.

He states: “This whole process of creating a bonded community depends on engagement in various activities, one of which is eating or drinking together, and that just creates a sense of belonging at work. It has huge knock-on consequences for your health, physical health and mental well-being, by virtue of forming friendships. In addition, it fosters a sense of loyalty to the organisation.”

Dr Anneli Gascoyne, Gascoyne, Associate Professor in Occupational Psychology at Goldsmiths University, weighs in on the importance of stepping away from work in order to provide healthy breaks from stress: “When we’re feeling behind on work, or perhaps the workload pile seems endless, there can be a strong temptation not to take a break.

“But trying to maintain focus for long periods of time is also counterproductive: over time, we’re depleting our mental energy, getting more stressed, and often don’t notice that happening. By skipping lunch or breaks we’re potentially making that situation worse.”

Matt Ephgrave, Managing Director of Just Eat for Business also commented on the findings, saying: “With the last two years proving particularly stressful for many, it’s crucial that employers take the time to provide opportunities for employees to feel more valued, connected and listened-to while at work.

“And although it’s essential to establish an approachable way to raise specific concerns at work – to HR departments or employers – regularly scheduled team socials and catered lunches can be a great way to gently encourage colleagues to establish strong bonds.”

The findings are released for Mental Health Week (9-15th May), hosted annually by the Mental Health Foundation, which encourages us to focus on achieving good mental health.

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