Both employers and employees suffer in silence from poor mental health

Mental health issues can affect everyone. Sadly, new studies from FreeAgent and ADP reveals both workers and their bosses feel uncomfortable opening up about their problems

Both employers and employees suffer in silence from poor mental health

Poor mental health can affect anyone. If left untreated, it could lead to catastrophic human costs and reduce company productivity. So it’s discouraging that both SME owners and employees are seemingly suffering in silence, according to two new surveys.

Let’s start with the employers. Having surveyed almost 740 UK freelancers and SME owners, cloud accounting company FreeAgent has revealed that 53% of small-business owners have had a burnout from overworking. Moreover, 86% had been so focused on their business that they’d skipped meals, cancelled social plans and sacrificed personal care in general. And because they felt they couldn’t take time off when sick, 81% confessed to having gone to work even when they’d been ill.

At least most of the people polled felt they had someone to talk to with 53% saying they had a good professional support network to turn to. Sadly, 38% didn’t have a network like that. “The large proportion of business owners without a support network in place, suggests that either there is not enough support available for these self-employed people or they are unsure about where or who to seek help from when they need it,” said Ed Molyneux, CEO and co-founder of FreeAgent.

He added: “Working for yourself should be an uplifting experience that enables you to be the master of your own destiny – not one that is detrimental to your mental health. As a small-business owner, it can be tempting to devote all [your] time and attention to your work but it’s also essential that business owners take care of themselves. More needs to be done to ensure that the UK’s legion of freelancers and small business owners can protect themselves from any mental health problems that arise from self-employment in the future.” 

This research comes on the back of previous studies revealing that many SME owners suffer from insomnia due to cashflow concerns and that 76% didn’t have time for holidays

But employers aren’t the only ones suffering in silence. In fact, while 69% of employees would disclose a mental health issue at work, 31% wouldn’t feel comfortable about it, according to a new survey from ADP, the HR service provider.

Even more concerning, the survey of 10,585 employees in eight European countries – France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Switzerland and the UK – found that 61% believe their boss doesn’t care about their mental health. 

This is reflected in who workers would share their mental health issues with. While 31% would tell their managers and 13% would talk to an HR representative, 51% would rather talk to close friends and colleagues. 

Commenting on the research, Jeff Phipps managing director and general manager of ADP UK and Ireland, commented: “With figures showing that one in four people will suffer from a mental health issue in their lives, it’s highly worrying to see how many employees still wouldn’t feel comfortable opening up about their own struggles.”

And he argued that the way for employers to encourage workers to be more open is by getting the ball rolling themselves. “Most companies do genuinely want to support employees, but communicating around the topic isn’t always easy,” Phipps said. “A good start is to lead by example; if employees see senior figures opening up about stress and mental health battles, it can help them to understand that they can too. And in fact, often the people who suffer the most are a company’s most senior figures, so mental health should be something that is addressed right across the organisation.

“This goes back to what should be a primary objective for all companies, leaders and employees – that work is more than what you do and is about achieving something greater for yourself and others. By leading employees in an open way and helping them feel comfortable disclosing any issues they’re facing, companies can create a more motivated, engaged and driven workforce.”

Mental health issues are clearly not to be taken lightly. Just like taking care of your own physical health can boost your startup’s value, taking care of your and your employees’ mental health will lead to a more productive and happier workplace. 

Eric Johansson
Eric Johansson

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