It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has had and continues to have a negative impact on many aspects of our lives, particularly our mental health. Research has shown that two-thirds of adults in the UK feel their mental health has worsened since the first national lockdown in 2020, with one in four of us experiencing an identifiable mental health problem for the very first time.
Increasing worries about job security and a blurring of the lines separating our home lives from our work lives have been named as two key triggers for this decline in wellbeing, which has hit younger employees, key workers, ethnic minorities and carers the hardest. Stress, anxiety, exhaustion and burnout have been especially prominent among these groups, and have been compounded by difficulties accessing the support and services upon which people would normally have been able to rely.
Fortunately for some, there has been a slight improvement in our general mental health following what’s considered the darkest period of the pandemic (November 2020 – January 2021), but not every sector has proven to be as resilient as others, and it’s left a nasty scar on both people and businesses which doesn’t seem able to fully heal on its own.
It’s been estimated that the total annual cost of poor mental health for employers reached an eye-watering £53-56 billion for 2020-2021 – an increase of around 25% of the costs seen in 2019. This figure is expected to remain high despite the main COVID-19 wave passing and is split between three different categories: presenteeism, absenteeism, and labour turnover.
- Absenteeism: somewhat surprisingly, this is only area in which costs hadn’t increased from 2019, meaning fewer days were taken off work by people during the 2020-2021 period. On the surface, this may seem like a positive thing, but a deeper dive suggests that the reasoning behind this decrease is anything but. Working from home and pressure to attend work even while unwell (also known as presenteeism, which we’ll get to in a moment) have been noted as key factors driving the overall figure downward rather than there genuinely being fewer instances of people being unwell, and the number of absence days taken due to poor mental health has actually increased during the same period.
- Presenteeism: although this category is harder to objectively measure than absenteeism, levels of presenteeism are incredibly likely to have increased in the last two years, with 46% of cases thought to be driven by poor mental health. Researchers have suggested that most individuals will either always or on most occasions go to work even when they are struggling with their mental health due to the stigma around the topic, leading to a decline in work standards, reduced attention to detail, and an increase in burnout among those employees – costing UK employers an estimated £24-28 billion in 2021.
- Labour Turnover: coined as the ‘Great Resignation’, a staggering 28% of employees in the UK are said to have either their left their job in the last year or plan to do so within the next twelve months, with almost two-thirds of them identifying poor mental health as the driving force behind their decision. The resulting cost which rippled out to employers was a shocking £22.4 billion in 2021 – an increase of over 150% from the £8.6 cost in 2019.
So, how do we rebalance the scales?
As much as many of us may want to, we can’t turn back the clock and erase the damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, nor is there a magic wand we can wave to cure poor mental health for everyone with one flick of our wrist. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some valuable lessons we can learn from the last two years to help build a brighter, more resilient future for employees and employers alike.
Analysis by Deloitte has revealed that every £1 employers invest in measures to improve the mental health of their employees can provide a financial return of around £5.30, based on reduced levels of both absenteeism and presenteeism, but also improvements in staff retention and the business’s attractiveness to potential new candidates compared to those who do not have any measures in place, or whose measures aren’t fit enough for purpose.
The prospect of incurring even more costs given the financial turbulence of the last few years can seem daunting to even the most seasoned of professionals. With so many options and services out there, it can be hard to know which one is right for your company’s needs both present and future, especially when there’s so much on the line in terms of both the business succeeding and the wellbeing of its staff.
This is where we come in.
Here at Employees Health, we know how to take the stress and doubt out of creating and maintaining your company’s wellbeing at work strategy, offering a number of workshops, activities and programmes which we can tailor to meet your business’s unique needs.
There’s no better time than now to make that investment in your employees mental health and protect your business’s future, so get in touch with our team of experts below and we’ll work with you to find the perfect solution for you, your employees, and your business.