Mental illness costing employers £45 billion a year, study suggests

Poor mental health in the workplace now costs the economy some £45 billion a year, a major study has revealed.

The research, published by ‘Big Four’ accountancy firm Deloitte, found that one in six workers experience a serious mental health issue at any one time.

Stress, meanwhile, is “thought to be responsible” for almost half of working days lost in Britain due to mental health issues, while presenteeism – where employers work though illness through fear of employer dissatisfaction – is largely to blame for the growing rates of mental illness among workers.

The report builds on existing bodies of evidence which suggest that employers need to do more to improve the working environment for people suffering from conditions such as stress, anxiety and depression.

The authors say while changes such as “greater openness in discussing mental health at work” can help employees overcome struggles, other changes, such as flexible working and the increasing use of technology, make it hard to disconnect from the “always-on” culture and exacerbate mental health problems.

However, thoughtful and positive investment into mental health challenges can be fruitful for employers, with an average return of £5 for every £1 spent.

Commenting on the findings, Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind said: “Smart, forward-thinking employers are investing in staff wellbeing, and those who do tend to save money in the long run. This report shows the link between prioritising staff wellbeing and improved loyalty and productivity; and decreased sickness absence and resignations.

“However, it also shows a rise in ‘presenteeism’ – unwell staff spending unproductive hours at work rather than taking time off. As presenteeism costs three times more than sick leave, we need to look at supporting employers to change the culture so their staff feel able to take time off when they are unwell.”

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