68% of Workers Think Opening up About Their Mental Health Could Have a Negative Impact on Their Job


We spend a lot of time at work. Over 82,000 hours over a lifetime to be precise[1], so looking after the mental health of our employees should be a top priority for business leaders as we reach the new decade.

And with a recent survey commissioned by workplace mental health organisation, TalkOut[2], highlighting the shocking state of mental health in the workplace, it’s more important than ever that managers and employers develop their mental health strategies to improve the working environment for their employees.

The nationwide study, in which 2,000 employees and 200 senior managers were surveyed, found that 68 percent of workers believe that if they told their boss they were struggling from some form of mental health issue, it would have a negative impact on their job.

Which comes as no surprise when 45 percent of workers said they’d seen someone pushed out of their job because of their mental health issues, and six percent of British workers who opened up about mental health issues to their boss, believe they lost their job over it.

The support given by management to employees was also a cause for concern. Overall, a staggering 67 percent of those surveyed said they have suffered mental health issues that affected them at work, with only 34 percent of those feeling supported by their employers, and over half believing that bosses would have no sympathy towards those struggling within the workplace.

What’s more, the state of the nation survey brought to light the particularly disconcerting attitude held by senior members of staff involved in the questionnaire; with 51% of UK senior managers admitting they would consider a worker who is mentally unwell a liability.

Additionally, 65 percent of senior management questioned in the TalkOut study said they thought opening up about mental health at work showed a sign of weakness – a worrying statistic that highlights the current stigma surrounding mental health in the workplace.

And how are UK workers responding to these negative opinions? Well, 64 percent of Brits claimed to have pretended to have a physical ailment to take sick leave, when instead they were struggling mentally, and over a third worried it might reflect badly on them if they were honest about their situation, so instead decided to stay quiet.

The survey continued to highlight the clear issues amongst the relationship between management and employee, with 69 percent of Brits finding it deeply uncomfortable broaching their feelings with their employer.

Jill Mead, co-founder and managing director of TalkOut, comments on the shocking findings: “The statistics collated from our survey are a real cause for concern and clearly demonstrate that not enough is being done to reduce the long-standing stigma and discrimination around mental health within the workplace.

“If we’re going to make any progress, mental health needs to stop being seen as a taboo, particularly in professional environments, and there needs to be an understanding and acknowledgement that people with mental health conditions can often thrive at work with the right support.”

With around three quarters of staff feeling uncomfortable opening up about their mental health to managers, it comes as no surprise that a staggering 93 percent of UK workers expressed a desperate need for better mental health training amongst managers and business leaders.

These eye-opening results demonstrate a worrying lack of awareness and empathy among managers when it comes to mental health and highlight the desperate need for high quality training and advice.

Join our growing network of employers
Receive Make A Difference News straight to your inbox

It’s time for businesses to talk out, adapt to the realities of running an organisation in the modern world, and understand why mentally healthy workplaces are paramount to commercial success. For more information on TalkOut, please visit the website here.

[1] Figure taken from DPG Plc. by CIPD, 2018

[2] Survey commissioned for TalkOut in October 2019

About the Author:

Jill Mead is co-founder and managing director of TalkOut and has nearly 20 years’ experience in the world of HR, developing and implementing initiatives around culture and high performance for businesses across various sectors. After years of supporting employees with their mental health, she decided to set up TalkOut when she identified a gap for an organisation that could provide credible mental health training, support and advice. Jill and her team are now on a mission to change the way mental health is treated in the workplace, with the aim of tackling stigma, creating happier work environments and driving business performance.




Sign up to receive Make A Difference's fortnightly round up of features, news, reports, case studies, practical tools and more for employers who want to make a difference to work culture, mental health and wellbeing.