New report outlines employers missing the mark with mental health support and what they can do about it

Photo by Michelle McEwen on Unsplash

Mental health support is being offered, but as the title of the report suggests, it’s “Missing the mark”.

Clinically-led research from Kooth Work, the digital wellbeing platform and workforce mental health specialists, paints a stark picture of staff working while unwell and feeling unable to access support. 

The report also offers a comprehensive view of the help employees do want and practical steps that employers can action.

A wakeup call for employers

The Flourish Workforce Mental Health research, which was conducted across UK workforces over the past 12 months, indicates that in many cases, there is a pressing need for greater communication around what, if anything, is available to staff. In 40% of cases, employers are paying for support that no-one even knows exists.

Employers might assume that poor levels of usage or awareness reflect lack of need, but Kooth Work’s research refutes this:

  • 77% of respondents said that they always work or work most of the time while they’re unwell
  • 37% showed moderate to high levels of burnout
  • 50% displayed signs of being at risk to depression
  • 62% report some levels of anxiety

The risk is that a higher percentage of workers will progress into more acute areas of need.

What employees want 

Reflecting on the research, and its implication that employees could be rejecting the support employers have on offer, Tim Barker, CEO, Kooth said: “Too many employers are putting solutions in place without first understanding their peoples’ needs”.

  • Over half want their employers to do more to identify, understand and meet their needs
  • Only 18% think their employer is doing enough to support their mental health

Where most organisations over-service on initiatives like Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) – a service which just 5% of people reported using – they are leaving many crucial requirements underserved. 

Barker explained:

“We found employees want easy access to professional mental wellbeing help, not generic and opaque systems. They want anonymity so they can talk without judgement and stigma. They don’t want waiting lists, thresholds to qualify for support, or a fixed number of counselling sessions. They also don’t want to have to pay to get the extra help they feel they need which is not currently available through their employer”.

Rising to the challenge

With almost half (47%) of global businesses seeing employee mental health and wellbeing as their number one priority in 2023, it’s essential that investments are made that deliver the best possible outcomes both for employees and for the business.

The report explains that to be able to effectively tailor support, it’s crucial for organisations to assess their workforce needs, looking below the surface to gain visibility and a clearer understanding of:

  • Workforce mental health status and its impact on overall performance
  • Hidden risks and presenting issues
  • Factors influencing mental health both in and out of the workplace

The report also highlights the strong inter-connection between employee mental health and home life. Personal life factors impacting employee wellbeing include financial stress or hardship, discrimination and a history of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).

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“It is clear that workplace mental health is never 9-5 and a more holistic approach is needed.” says Barker. 

To meet their needs, employees are calling for more – or better aligned – options like anonymous digital platforms, support groups, in-person support, and private healthcare, all which centre around their needs for more anonymity, flexibility and convenience, and professional support. 

You can find Kooth Work’s full “Missing the Mark” report findings here.


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