Failure of employers to provide mental health support could damage productivity and business losses, QBE survey finds

Businesses that fail to look after the mental wellbeing of staff leave themselves at risk of low productivity, higher absenteeism and even losing contracts.

Nearly 40% of senior decision-makers have experienced a loss of business as a result of employees continuing to work while experiencing mental health problems, according to new research.

Almost one in five employers have failed to deliver products or services due to an employee continuing to work while suffering from mental health issues. 11% have also experienced loss of customers and one in 10 lost business and contracts.

The survey, carried out by business insurance specialist, QBE, showed that the average cost of this lost business was £52,000.

Despite the huge impacts that staff mental health can have on a business’ success, not nearly enough organisations have put measures in place to support employee wellness.

A quarter of the senior executives surveyed said their business did not offer any workplace mental health support and 40% said they would prefer employees experiencing mental health problem related to stress, anxiety or depression to continue working rather than taking time off.

Grant Clemence, Senior Manager at QBE, said: “Businesses are beginning to recognise the beneficial impact that supporting mental wellness in the workplace can have, and while some employers may see absence as a cost, not allowing employees to take time to recover when they need it could be just as damaging.”

In a separate survey of employees, half said they had not taken time off to recover from a mental health problem. An overwhelming majority (94%) said this had taken a toll on their productivity, most commonly as a result of tiredness and fatigue (52%), feeling distracted or unable to focus (41%) and feeling irritable (37%).

More than half of employees surveyed (53%) said they would feel pressure to come into work if they were dealing with issues such as stress, anxiety or depression and the same proportion said that taking time off work to rest and recover would improve their productivity on their return.

Grant Clemence said: “Our research showed a continued stigma around discussing and disclosing mental health in the workplace. Two thirds of employees who have experienced a mental health problem did not disclose it. In addition to leave or flexible working to help support employees and boost productivity, employers should also consider offering mental wellness programmes.”

Among employers that had implemented programmes to support mental health in the workplace in the past 12 months, such as flexible working, leave for mental health problems, and mental wellness support, 62% noted an increase in employees’ productivity.

These stats should make risk managers sit up and take notice. Mental health initiatives are often seen as the preserve of HR departments, but the risks for organisations that fail to act on mental health issues are enormous.

Losing contracts, failing to deliver products on time and lost contracts are first and foremost business continuity issues. It’s time for risk managers to act.