Fewer than one quarter of managers say that supporting employee mental health is a priority for their company this year.

As many go back to the office, South Westminster Business Alliance commissioned research which found more than three quarters (78%) of managers admit they struggle to spot the signs of poor mental health.

Employees don’t think managers understand

 In a corresponding survey amongst employees, two thirds (64%) confessed they were concerned their management would not spot the signs of poor mental health. This comes as an independent OHID study finds that 49 percent of adults in England report worsening mental health due to the pandemic. 

A further three quarters (71%) of employees believe their managers would benefit from training, to increase their awareness.

“Businesses have shown huge resolve, in spite of ongoing uncertainty and lack of clarity, false starts and numerous knock backs and the resolve to make this recovery a success is stronger than ever.” said Ruth Duston, CEO of the South Westminster Business Alliance and MD of Primera Corp. “However, we must draw our attention to supporting the workforce – as the backbone of our communities and economy.”

Mental health issues can be masked at work

Through a series of in-depth interviews with organisations based in three London BIDs,  King’s College London and the South Westminster Business Alliance looked into the mental health in the Capital.The research found mental health concerns amongst employees in those businesses are emerging as a result of their respective professions, rather than personal lives.

Lucy Strang is a Research Associate at the Policy Institute at King’s College London. She said this was a crucial time to support employees as many return to hybrid working: “There is increasing awareness of the rise in mental health challenges, which have been accelerated by the pandemic. 

“Our research finds that participating companies were advocating health and wellbeing checks, so it is encouraging that given time and resource required that they can deliver and better support employees.”

With workers currently splitting their time between the office and working from home, the corresponding survey highlights the mental health challenges it exacerbates. 

Notably, the signs are both easier for employees to hide (71%) and less apparent through hybrid working (67%). Awareness for mental health is more prevalent than ever, with 90 percent of respondents agreeing there are more mental health challenges as a result of the pandemic.

Employers must prioritise employees’ mental health

Meanwhile, Ms Duston said: “The reality is that employers must prioritise mental health and wellbeing in order to create the best chance for London’s economy to bounce back. It begins with the creation of open, inclusive dialogue so that staff can feel that they can express their worries.

“From there, businesses must build and refine their mental health offering and have buy-in from all levels of the organisation.”