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Over Half Of UK Workers Too Uncomfortable To Talk About Mental Health At Work

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New research from leading UK jobs and careers site Reed.co.uk reveals over half of UK employees do not feel comfortable disclosing mental health or psychological conditions, such as ADHD, anxiety, or depression, in the workplace.  

The research, which surveyed over 2,000 workers and jobseekers across the UK, finds Millennials (anyone born between 1986-1991) are the generation least likely to disclose any mental health issues to their colleagues, with 57% stating they wouldn’t feel comfortable. Perhaps surprisingly, however, Baby Boomers, those aged 57-75, were the most comfortable talking about their mental health, with only 45% saying they wouldn’t want to open up. 
 
Those working in the energy sector feel the most uncomfortable when it comes to talking about mental health conditions in the workplace, as a whopping 81% of them wouldn’t want to talk about it with their employer or teammates, closely followed behind those working in engineering (75%) and accountancy (69%). For energy sector employees, the fear of being judged negatively by employers and colleagues is the main reason they don’t speak up (35%), and for engineers, it’s worries about career progression that stops them from talking about their mental health (37%). Over two-fifths (43%) of accountants said they’d feel too exposed and vulnerable if they ever said anything about a mental health condition. 
 
There’s a gender divide between men and women, as over half of all men surveyed (54%) say they’re uncomfortable discussing mental health conditions with their colleagues, whereas 49% of women say the same. Nevertheless, it’s women who are more worried about negative perceptions of themselves if they were to take a day off sick for mental health reasons, with 42% citing this as the main reason stopping them from taking a day off, versus 37% of men. 
 
Of those who have previously suffered from a mental health condition in the past, less than a quarter (23%) of them felt comfortable taking a sick day when needed. Despite being the group most comfortable to speak about their mental health, a shocking three-quarters (73%) of Baby Boomers have never taken a sick day due to mental health; however, Gen Z workers are taking a little better care of themselves, as 66% have taken time off to focus on their mental health.  
 
When looking into the reasons why talking about mental health is still perceived as slightly taboo in the workplace, the most common reason, cited by two-fifths (39%) of people, was that they feel they would be judged negatively if they opened up about their mental health. 36% stated they would feel too exposed and vulnerable, and this rose to a staggering 43% of Gen Z, the highest of all age groups asked.  
 
Although it’s still a taboo subject for some, there are encouraging signs that the conversation around mental health could be opening up, particularly when people see examples of their friends, family and co-workers starting to open up themselves. Nearly a third (32%) of UK workers report seeing their colleagues open up about their mental health and receive a positive response, which has led to them feeling comfortable doing so too. Breaking this down by age group, it’s Millennials who are most likely to follow the example of their colleagues with 38% agreeing.  
 
Top reasons Brits are starting to feel more comfortable speaking up about mental health within the workplace:

  • It’s less of a taboo subject than before – 38%
  • Colleagues opening up about mental health with a positive outcome – 32%
  • Friends and family talking about their mental health with a positive outcome – 24%
  • Increase in discussions around mental health on social media – 24%
    A rise in debates focusing on mental health on TV – 19% 

As part of its mission to help the UK find a job they’ll love, Reed.co.uk aims to equip UK workers with the tools they need to Love Mondays and confidence in talking about mental health when at work plays a crucial role in that. Reed.co.uk opened up the conversation to mental health charity Mind, on the importance of a supportive work environment. 

Mind’s Workplace Wellbeing Index Insights, researching workplace wellbeing showed that respondents who feel their line manager supports their mental health and wellbeing are more than twice as likely to report good mental health, than those who do not feel like they’ve got this support (62% against 29%).  

Simon Wingate, UK Managing Director at Reed.co.uk, says: “We’re seeing conversations about mental health becoming far more commonplace in our real lives, but there’s still some way to go in our working lives as our latest research reveals.” 

Wingate continued: “We’re on a mission to help people Love Mondays every day in their jobs, and a huge part of that is ensuring people feel they can bring their whole self to work and are comfortable and able to open up about any potential mental health challenges. 

“We need to ensure we’re encouraging employers to create safe, inclusive working environments that workers feel comfortable being themselves in, and we need to empower jobseekers and employees to feel confident if they need to speak up about their mental health. This open dialogue between co-workers will lead to greater job satisfaction and productivity, and ultimately a happier and healthier workforce.” 

Andrew Berrie, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at Mind, continues: “We know stigma around mental health hardens in times of economic uncertainty and decline. Many younger people who feel less financially secure or people in low-income positions may have concerns around disclosing poor mental health in case it might have an impact on their employment, hours scheduled or being considered unfavourably during change management processes. 

“Managers should look to ensure they’re having regular catch ups with employees and that wellbeing is a central area of discussion – ensuring employees understand their responsibilities, their priorities and what is expected of them – in addition to providing the necessary support to enable them to deliver on their work. Signpost employees to relevant and appropriate internal and external support as needed.” 

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