The Impact of Poor Mental Health in Workplaces

WorkScore’s recent research into the wellbeing of 14,300 Australian employees shows the prevalence of mental health disorders and the impact it has on the overall wellbeing of employees. It’s time to attend to the growing mental health needs of your workforce.

We can no longer deny that mental health disorders are impacting the wellbeing of working adults. Studies in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia have found that the rates of prescriptions for anti-depressants have more than doubled in recent decades.

An astounding one in five Australians will experience a mental health problem this year and, according to one estimate, 45% of adult Australians will experience a mental illness in their lifetime. The challenge is that many suffer in silence – especially in the workplace where the impact is far-reaching.

So, what are the elements that contribute to poor mental health in the workplace? WorkScore reviewed responses from over 14,000 Australian employees to find out:

Work is a major source of stress A third of employees rate their work-life balance as poor, 80% frequently experience stress when at work and close to 50% of employees find it hard to switch off from work.

WorkScore’s research identified three key areas of employees’ experiences at work that impact mental health. What we’ve found is that anxiety, depression happiness at work and mental health impairment are impacted by:

  • Engaging at work. Those that were engaged experience less anxiety and depression, have fewer mental health issues (15% less) than those who felt disengaged. These employees were also over 30% happier whilst at work.

  • Receiving recognition. Experiencing a high sense of achievement is important for mental health, as employees who rate a high sense of achievement are close to 30% happier at work, 20% less down or depressed and 15% less affected by mental health conditions.

  • Decreasing concentration. One third of employees stated their concentration at work is low. They also rate 30% less happy while at work than those employees with have high levels of concentration.

Working hard diminishes sleep quality Getting 7-9 hours is the recommended healthy amount of sleep. Yet 40% of employees are not achieving this.

It seems that work is pushing employees to sleep less. According to our findings, half of those who sleep less than five hours each night completed an additional eight hours of work each week.

Meanwhile people who got the recommended amount of sleep reported reduced anxiety, stress, more energy and better work life balance.

Our other findings highlight the effect of too little or too much sleep on employees’ mental wellbeing:

  • Employees who sleep less than 7 hours per night are 25% more stressed

  • Employees who sleep less than 5 hours per night are close to 20% more stressed

  • Employees who sleep more than 10 hours per night have 50% less energy.

Mental wellbeing challenges impact women and men WorkScore’s findings show that only 25% of women and 36% of men rate their wellbeing as very good. The remaining rate their wellbeing as being either average or low. Whilst 70% of our female respondents reported feeling anxious most of the time, men are suffering too. Among male employees we surveyed, 52% reported feeling very anxious.

When it comes to sleep men and women are not getting enough; two-thirds of women rate their sleep quality as low, and not surprisingly, nearly three-quarters of women rated low energy levels. And the majority of men surveyed are achieving only six hours of shut-eye per night.

Physical fitness is also a challenge for both men and women. A quarter of female employees reported that they don’t exercise at all. As for men, while 40% exercise, they only do it two days a week and 16% reported they don’t exercise at all.

Young and old are feeling the strain The impact of poor workplace wellbeing is felt across all ages. Employees aged 16-24 report the highest rates of depression, with 62% of this age group stating they felt depressed during the week of our survey. Despite the rates of depression dropping in the 45+ age group, it’s still a significant percentage with 40% of people in this age group experiencing depression.

It’s crucial, therefore, to foster a workplace culture that reduces the number of employees suffering from mental health problems. Here are some practical ways to do it:

Encourage employee self-care As everyone is unique, it’s important that managers allow their employees time for self-care. What works for one employee may not be effective with another. So, give them permission to take time for themselves so they can engage in activities that work for them.

Prioritise a healthy diet Our research found that employees with a healthy diet are 25% more positive and have 23% less mental health conditions. Give your employees access to healthy snacks at work, stick to healthy catering during company functions or help them to find useful healthy eating articles.

Fit in time for fitness Participating in physical activity for six or more days a week increases positivity by 10% and decreases anxiety by the same percentage. Don’t shy away from activities that get your teams moving. Organise regular walks, fitness classes or if you can afford it, subsidise employee gym memberships as part of employee benefits.

Stick to regular break times Taking regular lunch breaks reduces anxiety by 10%. Meanwhile, regular short breaks increase positivity by 15%. Respect your employees break times by avoiding meetings during their lunch breaks and checking on them to remind them to take regular breaks throughout the day.

With a health-focused work culture and an environment that promotes good mental and physical health, you can avoid the negative impacts of a poor mindset in the workplace.

Make WorkScore a part of your mental health investment Want to make a smart investment in the mental wellbeing of your workers? WorkScore can help.

Our digital workplace wellbeing program delivers improved health and wellbeing of employees and reduces unplanned leave.

In a recent case study, we tracked employees over a 12-month period and found measurable improvements in employee wellbeing and mental health.

Company improvements

  • 20% increase in being physically active when at work

  • 10% increase in rating of fitness level towards being very fit.

  • 10% reduction in anxiety frequency

Team improvements

  • 20% improvement in prioritising own wellbeing

  • 20% increase in energy levels

  • 15% reduction in stress experiences at work

If you’re ready to create an exceptional workplace experience, contact WorkScore on 1300 972 673 or [email protected]