mental healthHalf of workers in the UK (50 percent) say their employers have provided support for their mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, while two-thirds of employees globally reported the same (65 percent). This may illustrate a growing awareness and concern from businesses about the potential psychological impact on staff, according to a new study People at Work 2021: A Global Workforce View by the ADP Research Institute.

While the UK may be lagging behind in mental health support compared to the global average, there is some sense of progress. Just two years ago, nearly a quarter of employees (24 percent) felt that their company was not “at all” interested in their mental health, according to The 2019 Workforce View in Europe Report. A further third (37 percent) felt that any interest shown was merely “superficial”.

This comes as one in eight workers globally (13 percent), and one in six in the UK (15 percent) cited managing stress as their biggest challenge during the pandemic. Groups that have particularly struggled include essential workers (19 percent), women (20 percent), and 18- to 24-year-olds (25 percent).

ADP surveyed more than 32,000 workers in 17 countries for its report, which explores whether the effects of the pandemic have impacted employees’ attitudes towards the current world of work and what they expect and hope for from the future of work.

 

Under the microscope

However, at the same time, employer scrutiny of workers has intensified. Two-fifths of workers (40 percent) say that their employer is monitoring timekeeping and attendance more closely now than ever. This added scrutiny has especially been felt by essential workers, nearly half of whom (48 percent) reported closer monitoring by their employers, compared to a third of non-essential workers (33 percent).

Nearly half of essential workers have reported closer monitoring by their employers

Jeff Phipps, Managing Director of ADP in UK and Ireland, comments, “Mental health in the workplace is by no means a new concern, but the huge changes of Covid-19 have cast a spotlight on the support employees need from their organisations. It is encouraging to see so many businesses recognize this need – some responding proactively to mitigate the emotional and psychological toll of a global pandemic. As the status quo of office working and life as we knew it was disrupted, compassionate employers put constructive measures in place to help their workforce handle this turbulence.”

“However, it is really important that organisations do not undermine their own efforts to support mental wellbeing by becoming too heavy-handed when it comes to monitoring employees. It is understandable that employers may be finding it more difficult to manage a dispersed or hybrid workforce, and many are resorting to keeping tabs on attendance and time-management. But this year has shown that everyone works differently, so having people clocking in and out at specific times, or using rigid metrics to define performance, is unlikely to result in increased productivity or engagement. Additionally, by taking a Big Brother-style approach – and forcing some to work in a way that doesn’t suit them – businesses risk adding to workers’ feelings of stress and anxiety.”

“The changing way people are working has thrown up a multitude of new challenges for workers and businesses alike, and while employers need to adapt quickly, they must also tread carefully. Mental health must be a priority, especially as organisations start to plan their long-term strategies and ways of working. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all policy, and businesses must be careful to avoid superficial responses. At the moment, organisations and individuals alike are experiencing change on an almost continual basis, so it is also important to acknowledge that what works today in terms of mental health approaches may not work exactly the same tomorrow. Employers must be thoughtful in creating company-wide policies and as flexible as possible in supporting people on an individual basis.”

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