Our customers

Time to Talk Day: Fewer than 10% of UK employees will discuss mental health with their managers

Couple by the riverside

Three-quarters (74%) of UK employees who have experienced a mental health condition have reported that stigma towards mental health in the workplace has reduced over the past year– although there is more work to be done as employees still feel unable to discuss mental health with their line managers, according to new research from Aviva.

The findings from Aviva’s upcoming Health of the Workplace report[1], released for Time to Talk Day, revealed that just 9% of employees who have had a mental health condition sought help from their line manager. Meanwhile, 12% would discuss their mental health with a work colleague. Only 4% would talk to HR. 

Employees say that they would typically speak to their family (41%) and friends (38%) if they had a mental health condition.

Who do UK employees go to for support?[2]

%

Family member

41%

Friend

38%

Health professional

36%

Online research

19%

Counsellor

17%

Work colleague

12%

Line manager

9%

HR

4%

When conversations do take place, there’s a disconnect in line managers’ perceptions of how well they’re supporting their colleagues versus what employees say they experience.  

Over three-quarters (77%) of employers have said that they’re ‘good at identifying when team members are under pressure’, yet only 37% of employees agreed with this statement, which suggests there is a gap between words and actions here. 

Despite this, employees are increasingly becoming mindful of their colleagues’ mental health. Over half (55%) of employees highlighted that they worked with someone who experienced a mental health condition. Encouragingly, 76% said they were concerned about their colleagues and did their best to help. Just 5% were sceptical whether their colleague actually ‘had an issue.’

There’s also a growing recognition that employees should not hide their mental health or put on a brave face if they are struggling– as 88% of employers and 87% of employees agreed that ‘it’s OK not to feel OK.’

Dr Subashini M, Associate Medical Director, UK Health & Protection at Aviva said: “It’s good to see that 88% of employers agree that it’s ‘OK to not feel OK’ - this is a positive step in the right direction. However, there still seems to be a disconnect where employers say that they want to support mental health in the workplace, but employees don’t feel that they are receiving it. Over three-quarters (77%) of employers have said that they’re ‘good at identifying when team members are under pressure’, yet only 37% of employees agreed with this statement, so why is this message not landing?  

“Our experience is that there is a difference between saying and doing things: you can follow guidelines and protocols, but this needs to be done with connection and authenticity with staff. A conversation about mental health doesn’t always mean supporting a colleague through depression and anxiety. Everyone can experience triggers and symptoms that impact their mental health. The disconnect is apparent when tasks asked of employees do not change nor does the workplace culture, despite the acknowledgement of wanting to support mental health in the workplace.

“When an employer commits to a ‘Time to Talk’ pledge, it isn’t a ‘once and done.’ Employers have a vital role to play here. Employees should feel that they can be authentic at work, feel able to speak up about their mental health, and be accepted by their line managers and colleagues.

“It is also about signposting employees to the most appropriate support as mental wellbeing is also linked to financial, physical and social wellbeing. It could mean a company offering line manager training, resilience training, access to an Employee Assistance Programme, volunteering to improve wellbeing, shared parental leave, or solutions such as private medical insurance or group protection to help employees maintain and manage their mental health.”

Dr Si Thu Win, Consultant Psychiatrist at Runnymede and Spelthorne Community Mental Health Recovery Service, supported the findings saying: “A cultural shift has already begun with prominent celebrities and public figures, at least in the UK, shining a light on mental health. I think the ‘stiff upper lip’ is turning into a smile as more people are becoming more open and able to talk about their mental health."

- ENDS -

References:

[1] Aviva Health of the Workplace Study was conducted by YouGov Plc.  Total employer sample size was 1021 and employee 2,023 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 1st - 9th November 2019.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

[2] This table relates to people who have had a mental health condition (92% of employees polled.) 

Media Enquiries:

Fiona Murphy

Protection, Health and Regulation

Notes to editors:

  • For information on how Aviva is helping our people, customers and communities impacted by COVID-19 visit: www.aviva.com/covid-19-our-response/ 
  • Aviva is a leading international savings, retirement and insurance business. We exist to be with people when it really matters, throughout their lives – to help them make the most of life. We have been taking care of people for more than 320 years, in line with our purpose of being ‘with you today, for a better tomorrow’.
  • Our vision is to earn our customers’ trust as the best place to save for the future, navigate retirement and insure what matters most to them. In 2019, we paid £33.2 billion in claims and benefits on behalf of our 33.4 million customers.
  • We will focus on the UK, Ireland and Canada where we have leading market positions and significant potential. We will invest for growth in these markets. Our International businesses in Europe and Asia will be managed for long-term shareholder value. We will also transform our performance and improve our efficiency. Our transformation will be underpinned by managing our balance sheet prudently, reducing debt and increasing our financial resilience.
  • Total group assets under management at Aviva group are £522 billion and our Solvency II capital surplus is £12.0 billion (HY20). Our shares are listed on the London Stock Exchange and we are a member of the FTSE 100 index.
  • For more details on what we do, our business and how we help our customers, visit www.aviva.com/about-us 
  • The Aviva newsroom at www.aviva.com/newsroom includes links to our image library, research reports and our news release archive. Sign up to get the latest news from Aviva by email.
  • You can follow us on Twitter: www.twitter.com/avivaplc/  
  • You can follow us on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/aviva-plc 
  • For the latest corporate films from around our business, subscribe to our YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/user/aviva 
  • We have a Globelynx system for broadcast interviews. Please contact the Press Officer noted above if you would like to make a booking.

More from our Newsroom