New research conducted by the CIPD has revealed an alarming increase in sick days taken by UK workers, reaching levels not seen in the past decade.
Commenting on these findings, Sarah Mayo, a renowned workplace mental health specialist and co-founder of POINT3 Wellbeing, said, “The increase in sick days among UK workers is indeed concerning. This is a clear sign that the mental and physical health of our workforce is under significant strain.
“The mental health challenges that many workers face, exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic and economic pressures, are manifesting in these rising sick day numbers. Employers need to understand that we must support a resilient and productive workforce, not only for output purposes but also because we have a moral imperative to ensure we are supporting each other better.”
According to the research, employees in the UK took an average of 7.8 sick days in the past year, figures up from the 5.8 days from pre-pandemic. The CIPD has attributed the rise to a combination of factors, including stress, the ongoing challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the escalating cost-of-living crisis.
The study revealed that minor illnesses were the primary reason for short-term absences, followed closely by musculoskeletal injuries and mental health issues. Research also indicates that due to stigma and fear of being judged or penalised, people are more likely to conceal that they are taking time off work for mental health issues.
Sarah added, “With World Mental Health Day today, I want to outline how managers can support their employees in the workplace through simple, thoughtful actions. The important thing to remember is that these initiatives are not just for one day – they require constant implementation and evaluation to be effective.”
1. Be available for your team with regular 1-1s
Regular one-on-one meetings between managers and their team members are essential for providing ongoing support and are a key indicator of the highest engaged teams. These meetings offer a dedicated platform for employees to discuss their concerns, including those related to mental health. Managers who approach these conversations with empathy, active listening, and non-judgmental attitudes build trust and engagement
Employees require an empathetic manager who has the emotional intelligence to deal with difficult conversations with kindness. By engaging with employees in this way, management will see far greater communication from their team.
Through demonstrating genuine care, managers can better understand their team’s needs and provide tailored assistance when required. These 1-1s not only address immediate issues but also help build trust and rapport, fostering a supportive work environment where employees are more likely to reach out for help when needed.
2. Upskill in management and mental health training
Managers play a pivotal role in supporting employees’ mental health but to effectively fulfil this role, they may need to build their emotional intelligence in the workplace, and mental health awareness. By investing in management training, they can be equipped with the necessary skills and confidence to lead their teams efficiently and with more understanding and kindness.
It is also crucial for managers to understand that everyone has mental health. And much like we all have physical health, both can either be in a good place or a not-so-good place. This will in turn impact how we think, feel and behave at work and in our relationships. Managers who undergo mental health training are more likely to recognise signs of distress, promote a stigma-free environment, and learn how to initiate conversations about mental well-being. This will empower managers to identify issues, offer appropriate support, and ensure a positive work atmosphere where employees feel seen, heard and understood.
3. Identify and create support systems
Managers who actively seek out ways to identify and establish support systems within their teams will be rewarded with higher engagement levels and productivity. Recognising the unique needs of each employee is essential, as what works for one may not work for another. By fostering open communication and empathy, managers can create an environment where employees feel comfortable discussing their challenges.
Following this, they can implement peer support networks or employee resource groups focused on mental health. These systems provide employees with a safe space to share experiences and coping strategies, reducing feelings of isolation.
4. Introduce mental health and wellbeing training sessions
A proactive approach to mental health includes offering regular training sessions focused on mental well-being. These sessions can cover topics such as stress management, building resilience, and work-life balance.
Managers who encourage employees to attend mental health sessions and attend themselves are more likely to see positive engagement. This not only signals the company’s commitment to mental health but also equips everyone with valuable tools to navigate the challenges they may face.