How mental health issues contribute to absenteeism

As was touched upon a few months ago, one of the most significant issues affecting the performance of workers in all industries is absenteeism – defined as when staff are absent for a prolonged period without making a productive contribution to the business’ overall output.

Whilst such absences can of course be attributed to any number of reasons, recent research by Wildgoose has found that mental health in the workplace has been responsible for approximately 62% of the nation’s workforce having taken at least one day off over the last year.

Costing employers on average more than £1000 per absent employee a year, there is significant evidence that indicates mental health care at work is in drastic need of improvement in order to meet staff needs. Indeed, of the aforementioned 62%, 44% of this figure admitted to calling in sick with a different issue rather than admit to the source of their troubles. Whether they were afraid of being stigmatised remains to be seen, but the fact remains that without transparency and a frank debate, the root cause of the problems at hand cannot be properly attended to.

In contrast, only a quarter of those with mental health issues were willing to share their concerns with a manager. This just goes to show how crucial it is that managers remain empathetic to the needs of their staff, and have a rapport with their team so that they can be approached on matters of such importance. Whilst it can be difficult to put measures in place to help those in need of aid if they are unwilling to do so, having at least a basic framework and plan established for the sake of employee mental health will hopefully at the very least encourage more people to speak out with such a safety net in place.

Practically as well, when asked what could be done in the workplace to help ease mental health issues, the number one response was that mental afflictions should be viewed as being on par with physical ones. Whilst other ideas gained support such as having a designated ‘chill-out zone’ to unwind in, having a more open business culture and subsequent procedures to deal with mental health worries were some of the most popular improvements those surveyed would like to see implemented.

Therefore whether you’re motivated by altruism or by the need to make your business more productive, doing more to tackle mental health issues at work and subsequent absenteeism is integral for any employer looking to maximise their employees capacity to contribute to one’s business goals. If very real concerns continue to be brushed under the rug in an atmosphere that fails to properly acknowledge them, then the simple truth is that employees affected will continue to underperform through no fault of their own. Whilst great steps have been taken in recent years to stimulate debate surrounding mental health, more is still required to achieve proper parity with other health afflictions. Although there might be some initial tentativeness from both employers and employees to initially get these matters out in the open, both parties will surely feel the benefits soon enough.