Press release: Mental Health at Work Report 2016: Millions suffer in silence

  • 77% of employees have experienced poor mental health 
  • 62% of employees have experienced poor mental health where work was a contributing factor – 24% in the last month alone
  • Managers underequipped and unsupported to respond to mental health in work
  • Bosses disconnected from reality of employees’ experiences of mental health 

Employers across the UK are failing to provide adequate support to employees or equip managers with the skills to help them. More than three quarters (77%) of employees have experienced symptoms of poor mental health in their lives, and for 62% of employees work has been a contributing factor to poor mental health. Despite this, over half of employees (56%) who disclosed symptoms of poor mental health said that their employer took no mitigating actions and only 22% of managers have had relevant mental health training at work. 

These are some of the findings from the Mental Health at Work report released today by the charity Business in the Community. The report shares findings from a national survey undertaken with research partner YouGov that heard from nearly 20,000 people in work across the UK. 

The report finds bosses are disconnected from the reality of employee experiences. 60% of board members believe their organisation supports people with mental ill health and 97% of senior managers believe that they are accessible if employees want to talk about mental health. However, 63% of managers believe that they are obliged to put the interests of their organisation above the wellbeing of team members, and 49% of employees would not talk to their manager about a mental health issue.  

“Millions of employees are suffering in silence and feel unable to share their experiences at work. When they do reach out, many are met with an inadequate response,” said Louise Aston, Wellbeing Director at Business in the Community. “Our findings show that we need more openness, more training and information, and more support for employees and managers. This is why we are asking employers to take three steps – Talk, Train and Take Action.” 

Managers do want to help - 76% believe that staff wellbeing is their responsibility, yet 80% say organisational barriers prevent them from delivering on this. The result is that default responses to supporting employees with poor mental health are time off work and a job change, both of which go against what employees want and best practice.  

Louise Aston continued: “It is good that mental wellbeing is on the radar for leaders and managers, but this is still not translating into the right workplace cultures or adequate support for employees experiencing poor mental health. Employers must accept the scale of mental ill health in the workplace and start taking a preventative approach now. This means getting the work culture right in the first place so that they promote good work and work-life balance. Progress will only happen when employers approach mental ill health as they would physical ill health – doing what they can to prevent ill health occurring or escalating, and ensuring proper support for employees when it happens. Employees must feel that the workplace is supportive of, rather than, detrimental to their mental health.”

The report also finds that: 

  • In the last month alone, nearly a quarter of all of employees (24%) experienced symptoms of poor mental health where work was a contributing factor.
  • When experiencing their most recent symptoms of poor mental health, just 11% of employees discussed this with their line manager, and only 25% felt able to talk to someone at work (such as a colleague, line manager or HR) at all. 
  • One third of line managers felt that senior managers and HR departments had either been not very or not at all supportive when they were managing someone with poor mental health.
  • Organisational barriers cited by line managers include lack of adequate training (32%), insufficient time for one-to-one meetings (26%), and having to focus on performance targets (22%).
  • Two fifths (40%) of line managers are not confident in responding to symptoms such as panic attacks, depression and mood swings, compared to stress (77%).
  • The fear of interfering or not knowing what to do prevents the bulk of the workforce (86%) from approaching a colleague they are concerned about. 
  • Structured support systems and HR are under-utilised by employees. 23% of employees have access to an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), but just 2% of employees used the EAP during their most recent symptoms of poor mental health and fewer than 2% went to HR to talk about their mental health. 
  • Younger workers are more likely to experience symptoms of poor mental health but feel less confident than older workers about discussing it with their manager. 43% of 18-29 year olds who have experienced these symptoms said the most recent episode was in the past month, compared to 29% of 50-59 year olds. Fewer than half (46%) of younger employees would be confident to tell their manager about a mental health problem, compared to 58% of those aged over 60.
  • Male managers are less confident than female managers in responding to poor mental health, yet are less enthusiastic about mental health training.

Business in the Community is calling for employers to: 

  1. Talk: break the culture of silence that surrounds mental health by taking the Time to Change Employer’s Pledge.
  2. Train: invest in basic mental health literacy for all employees and first aid training in mental health to support line manager capability.
  3. Take Action: Close the gap by asking all staff their experiences in order to identify the disconnects that exist in the organisation. 

The Mental Health at Work report draws on findings from the National Employee Mental Wellbeing survey, sponsored by Anglian Water, National Grid and P&G, and undertaken by YouGov. It is a collaboration with the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), The Institute of Leadership and Management, Maudsley Learning at Work, Mental Health First Aid England, Mind and The Work Foundation, to transform workplace mental health.   

The Mental Health at Work report is available online:
Share on social media: @BITCWellbeing #WellbeingSurvey #mentalhealthatwork 

Sponsor Quotes:

Peter Simpson, Chief Executive of Anglian Water and Chair of Business in the Community's Wellbeing Taskforce, said:  “This report gives us an extraordinary opportunity to highlight the unspoken reality of employee mental health, and fundamentally change the way that businesses approach mental wellbeing in the workplace.

“Work is a positive thing that should actually make us better, and at Anglian Water we want people to be healthier than they would be if they weren’t working with us. There is not only a moral urgency to act on mental health; there is also a clear business case for doing so. As well as improved lives for millions more people, it means more productive, competitive and progressive businesses for the long term.
“For businesses to have real impact it requires clear and visible senior leadership. At Anglian Water, ultimately the responsibility stops with me, and I take an active role to send a clear message that this is how we do business.“I hope that as we progress with these employee surveys over the next three years we see more and more businesses embracing
wellbeing for the good of their workforce and to the credit of their business.”

Helen Tucker, HR Director, P&G Northern Europe: “At P&G we understand that we all have mental health just as we have physical health. This survey is so important as it raises public and employer awareness of the importance of mental wellbeing including the critical role of the line manager. We believe it is key to embed mental health awareness into line manager training so that they can best fulfil their responsibilities and take care of the people in their teams.”


Survey Respondent Quotes: 
“It is not okay to discuss these things. It is regarded as the employee’s problem and their problem alone.” – Line manager, public survey respondent

“…there is still a huge social stigma when it comes to mental health in a competitive environment, that is life. Why would you want to show any weakness? – Line manager, public survey respondent

“Training for line managers would allow them to better understand what I was going through. I was told things like "you are obviously not strong enough for [the next grade up]" and "you should learn to be more resilient" which I think are the result of misunderstandings about anxiety, etc.” – Employee, public survey respondent


Notes to editors
Interviews with Louise Aston, Wellbeing Director at Business in the Community, sponsors and employers, and the partners available upon request. Case studies from individual experiences of mental health in the workplace available upon request. 

For more information please contact:   
Alex Delaney, PR Manager,, T: 020 7566 8694 / 07766 161419
Laura Cooney, Workplace Communications Officer,, T: 020 7566 8653. 

This report presents the key findings from a survey of 3,036 full and part-time employees in the UK representative of gender, age, industry sector, region and business size, excluding sole traders and those working alone. The report leads on this main sample drawn from the YouGov panel of over 600,000 people in the UK. In addition, the report highlights upon data drawn from a parallel public open survey of 16,246 responses that was promoted by Business in the Community, partners, supporting organisations, and via social media. All fieldwork was conducted online during May-July 2016. The surveys explore mental health and wellbeing in the workplace with a focus on the role of the line manager.

Definition of symptoms of poor mental health: In the National Employee Mental Wellbeing survey respondents were asked if they had experienced symptoms that are defined as an indicator of poor mental health. These symptoms are defined as: Behavioural (e.g. changes to appetite, irritability, procrastination, mood swings), Physical symptoms (e.g. raised blood pressure, muscle tension, sweating, dizziness, headaches or migraines), Psychological symptoms (e.g. depression, anxiety, panic attacks).

About Business in the Community 
Business in the Community is the Prince's Responsible Business Network, working with more than 800 members to tackle a wide range of issues that are essential to creating a fairer society and a more sustainable future. Business in the Community is a business-led charity with more than 30 years' experience of mobilising business, engaging with thousands of businesses through its programmes each year. It brings together leading businesses, united in a collective desire to share honest insight and best practice for the common good through knowledge sharing and collaboration.

The wellbeing campaign at Business in the Community supports employers in ensuring employee wellbeing is a strategic boardroom issue. Our members are committed to promoting good physical and mental wellbeing to enhance engagement and productivity. We work to provide members with tailored and practical advice to achieve this.