The pandemic has impacted mental health across the country says the NHS and it is calling on the government to take action.

While, fifty eight percent of employees told Champion Health they had mild symptoms of anxiety, and 18 percent said they had a current mental health diagnosis, in its 2022 The Workplace Health Report.

The chief executive of the NHS Confederation’s Mental Health Network Sean Duggan, called on the government to “urgently outline” a specific mental health recovery plan.

In response to the Lords COVID-19 Committee report ‘Living in a COVID World‘. He emphasised “the need for long-term approaches to policymaking in mental health”.

Mr Duggan said a mental health policy was most important for diverse communities, as they ‘routinely face worse access, experience and outcomes of care.’

“We fully support the Committee’s recommendation that the Government now commit to working with service providers to truly understand demand and capacity in mental health service provision in the long term,” he said, “and to providing the additional funding needed to fill the shortfall.

The majority of employees experience symptoms of anxiety and depression

According to Champion Health, wellbeing data has never been so imperative since the pandemic. Their report says ‘large numbers of employees’ they have symptoms of fatigue, anxiety and depression. It says this makes it crucial employers create effective wellbeing strategies to target these issues. This is especially as employee productivity is lower when they are impacted by mental health concerns.

With 24 percent of employees reporting clinically relevant symptoms of anxiety, and 52 percent of employees reporting mild symptoms of depression, the effect of the pandemic is clear.

Yet, the pandemic certainly has not impacted everyone equally. This is especially the case when it comes to the mental wellbeing of males and females. 37 percent of males report symptoms of anxiety, compared to 62 percent of women. Similarly, 32 percent of males report symptoms of depression, whilst 61 percent of woman report these symptoms.

It is worrying that despite these high numbers of reported symptoms, only 9 percent of employees are currently receiving support for their mental health, with 61 percent of employees reporting that they have never received any support. Again, there is a notable difference between men and woman here, with 74 percent of those who are currently seeing mental health being woman, compared to only 25 percent being men.

Workload is a source of negative stress at work

With workload being the main factor employees cite as responsible for their negative stress, 35 percent of employees also cite a lack of control, followed by 26 percent citing a lack of support. Clearly employees have a unique relationship with stress.

Sitting is causing musculoskeletal issues

In addition, with the greater number of employees who work from home, it is unsurprising that poor musculoskeletal (MSK) rates are high across the board. Employees are spending an average of 11 hours a day seated, with only 18 percent breaking their sitting periods with the recommended frequency of every 30 minutes. Nearly 60 percent of employees with pain have not seen a specialist, and nearly 1 in 5 report that the pain is impacting their productivity at work.

What are the solutions?

According to the study, it is important to recognise that stress is not always “bad” as it can help to motivate and drive employees. Therefore, it is not necessarily about “eradicating” stress, which is both unrealistic and potentially counterproductive to performance.

Instead, as 2022 The Workplace Health Report by Champion Health suggests, an individualist approach to stress management would be beneficial. Employers should aim to find the ‘sweet spot’ of workplace stress, working closely with individuals to set realistic targets, manage workloads and define expectations.

Additionally, with 30 percent of employees citing financial wellbeing as a cause of stress outside work, it is vital that organisations develop a greater financial wellbeing policy . Laura Dallas, Head of Product at Champion Health, highlights the urgency of doing so, saying that it is “essential to normalise conversations about money which many employees are still reluctant to have.” She suggests creating campaigns around specific awareness weeks, such as “Talk Money Week”, which would enable employees to promote the financial wellbeing services their organisation offers.

Harry Bliss, CEO & Co-Founder of Champion Health, promotes business leaders to do everything possible to support their teams, suggesting making wellbeing a board level KPI. He adds that effectively communicating wellbeing strategies and initiatives are also great ways employers can tackle mental health issues.

The rising cases of MSK also needs to be addressed. There is an urgent need for employers to conduct regular and appropriate desk assessments to ensure workplaces are suitable and safe.

As Jack Green, Head of Performance at Champion Health, highlights, employees “who are tired, or in a bad place mentally, will not perform to their best.” Hence, addressing these issues will positively impact employees’ mental health and wellbeing, allowing for greater productivity within the workplace.