UK workers feel pressure to hide mental health concerns, survey finds

Workers feel under pressure to disguise their mental health struggles from colleagues despite feeling less able to cope than they did before the pandemic, according to research released as the government advocates a return to the workplace.

About half (51%) of respondents to a survey said they felt under pressure to put on a brave face at work, while four in 10 said they felt less resilient since the Covid crisis struck.

Fewer than one in six (16%) said they felt their mental health was very well supported at work, despite 81% wanting their employers to give them help with their mental wellbeing.

The findings, from a survey of more than 2,000 people commissioned by Lime Insurance, emerged just as ministers start to ramp up pressure on the British workforce to reduce the amount they work from home.

This week the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, suggested that a return to office working was particularly important for young people.

“I doubt I would have had those strong relationships if I was doing my summer internship or my first bit of my career over Teams and Zoom,” he told LinkedIn News.

“That’s why I think for young people in particular, being able to physically be in an office is valuable.”

The government has said that people should gradually start returning to offices and other workplaces in England, since restrictions were eased on 19 July. By contrast, the Scottish government is encouraging working from home until at least 9 August, where possible.

The latest survey results suggest many workers are anxious about having to be around other people again while they are struggling with their mental health.

Almost one in five surveyed said they were concerned about their stress being visible to others, while 26% said they did not think they were coping.

Over a third felt the same way about everyday life and 40% said they felt less resilient now than they did before the pandemic.

Young people are bearing the brunt of these challenges, with the research suggesting 43% of women aged 16-24 and 49% of men aged 16-24 feel less resilient now than they did before the pandemic.

Women also feel they are under more pressure than male colleagues to hide any mental health issues, with younger women feeling the pressure the most, Lime said.

Workers said that employers should help them by paying more attention to workload and work/life balance, allowing greater flexibility in working hours and time out to deal with personal commitments, as well as offering mental health days off work.

Team MYWF

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